Bombshell Study Shows Common Pesticide Causes Brain Damage in Children Bombshell Study Shows Common Pesticide Causes Brain Damage in Children

Bombshell Study Shows Common Pesticide Causes Brain Damage in Children

by Stephanie Huber Nov 6, 2018

A new study carried out by an expert panel of toxicologists has concluded that an entire class of pesticides must be banned to protect children’s health. Organophosphates (OPs), which are widely used in US agriculture, can cause brain damage in prenatal children.

Exposure to these chemicals, even in low amounts, has been found to be linked to autism, reduced IQs, memory loss, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The study, published by PLOS medicine, also found that high exposure to OPs poison adults and children alike, and have resulted in countless deaths, mainly in developing countries.

Unfortunately, the use of OPs is widespread. 71 countries in the world use them, and the United States is one of the countries in which they are most prevalent. Since they are often sprayed on crops and plants, small particles can be carried away in the air, away from the field or yard where they are intended to land. Once applied, they settle into soil, plants, and even on surface water. In addition, they can contaminate groundwater.


Since organophosphates break down rapidly, they aren’t likely to build up into high levels. However, the PLOS paper found that there is no “safe level” of exposure for pregnant women.

“We’re very concerned that we’re not confident there is any safe level to these chemicals,” Jennifer Sass, co-author of the paper, told HuffPost.

Working for companies that make or use these chemicals puts people at high risk. However, the main source of exposure is found in nearly every American home – contaminated food or water. OPs are also used in many pesticide sprays marketed for home use.

Will OPs be banned in the US?

In 2015, the US Environmental Protection Agency proposed that chlorpyrifos, an insecticide in the organophosphate family, be banned permanently from use on food crops. However, the Agency’s then-Administrator, Scott Pruitt, signed an order in 2017 to allow it to remain in use.

Pruitt ignored scientific evidence pointing to the risk of brain damage in children, opting instead to assert that the US must “provide regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos.”

This insecticide was already successfully banned for home use in 2000. However, it’s safe to assume that the Trump administration will attempt to shut down any more attempts to ban OPs from commercial use, since President Trump has long showed hostility toward the EPA and favoritism toward big business. In fact, he once stated that the environment “would be fine without” the EPA.

This year, a federal court ordered the EPA to ban chlorpyrifos on American farms.The court’s decision represented a huge victory for advocates of human and environmental health.  Nevertheless, the EPA is appealing the court’s order.

“This shows that the EPA can’t just ignore the science that this pesticide damages children’s brains,” said Marisa Ordonia, a lawyer for Earthjustice. “The Trump administration has to follow the law, as does everyone else.”

How to protect yourself from OPs

Until a ban is (hopefully) enacted, citizens in countries where these pesticides are still in use will have to take precautions to lessen their exposure to them.

Here are some easy ways to do so:

  • Buy only unsprayed or organic produce
  • Always wash fruits and veggies before eating them, especially if you’ll consume them raw (with tap water, do not use dish soap)
  • Dry the produce after washing it to remove all remaining pesticide residue
  • Grow your own produce in a home garden
  • Remove the skin, peel, and outer layers of produce when possible
  • Be aware of the fruits and veggies with the highest pesticide load
  • Use non-toxic methods to combat insects in your home and garden


Photo Credits: Brian Birke, European Ombudsman, PLOS Medicine, EarthJustice,