EPA Bans Pesticide on Food Tied to Harming Children

Recently UPHE sent this letter to the board members of the SLC Mosquito Abatement District.

Dear SLCMAD Board members:

I hope you are aware that yesterday the EPA announced a ban on the most commonly used organophosphate pesticide, chlorpyrifos, because it is strongly linked to neurologic damage in children, lower IQs, lower birth weights, and other developmental disorders. “Today E.P.A. is taking an overdue step to protect public health,” said head of EPA, Michael S. Regan.

This has particular relevance for SLCMAD’s use of naled, because chlorpyrifos is a close chemical cousin of naled. In addition to numerous studies that have shown even low concentrations of organophosphates are harmful to brain development, a recent study found that naled and chlorpyrifos were the most neurotoxic of 30 organophosphate pesticides. 


With pesticides being a known contributor to autism and other brain developmental disorders, and Utah having one of the highest rates of autism in the nation, Utah policy makers should take particular note of the EPA’s announcement, especially given that EPA has only completely banned eight chemicals in their entire history.

The EPA has already banned naled for residential use, so why does the District think it’s safe to spray from airplanes over Salt Lake City week after week, month after month, year after year? This action by the EPA is even more reason for SLCMAD to adopt the two-year pesticide moratorium that Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) have been calling for.

We remind you that:

1. Like chlorpyrifos, naled, pyrethroids, and even the synergist PBO are all developmental neurotoxins even at low doses. Mr. Faraji’s opinion that the pesticide spraying is not a health hazard because it is “ultra-low volume” is contradicted by literally hundreds of studies in animals and humans, both epidemiological and experimental. Obviously, repeated application of “ultra-low volume” quickly becomes no longer “low volume.”

2. Repeated pesticide use inevitably leads to mosquito resistance which is already happening. The more pesticides are used, the more quickly resistance develops. If indeed a “low concentration” is enough to kill mosquitoes, then it is also enough to foster resistance. In an attempt to justify invoking the US Air Force, the District’s EA this spring acknowledges pesticides were already losing their effectiveness. If spraying pesticides every day actually worked, why are mosquito populations increasing in the face of constant spraying? 

3. West Nile Virus infections in humans are steadily declining, likely from growing population immunity as experts predicted. After peaking in 2003 at nearly 10,000 cases nationally, infection rates have fallen steadily for over 15 years, despite an increase in mosquito populations. There have only been 40 WNV cases in the entire country so far this year, in Utah only two cases last year, and only two so far this year. 

4. There are safer, non-pesticide ways to control mosquitoes being used in other cities right now. 

Historically we have usually waited far too long to control or ban environmental toxins. The District should not wait until naled is also banned before it stops using this toxic pesticide.

Demonstrators want ban on chlorpyrifos. Photo: Matt Whittaker, New York Times