Chlorpyrifos: Why is Edmonton the Only Municipality in Canada That Still Uses This Potent and Persistent Neurotoxin to Control Mosquitos?

by Sheryl McCumsey – Edmonton Chapter Steering Committee Member and Coordinator, Pesticide Free Edmonton

Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxin that inhibits proper nerve functioning. It is used to kill insects by paralysing the insect’s essential muscles like those used for breathing. Of course it doesn’t just impact insects as many health studies have proven. The chemical is linked to severe birth defects, brain damage, developmental delays and behavioural problems in humans. Its use correlates with increased incidence of cancer and it has caused deaths. Some of the largest lawsuits around any pesticide are related to chlorpyrifos. $23.5 million was awarded in 2010 to one US family in a lawsuit after their children were permanently harmed. New York State also sued Dow Chemical, the company that makes the chemical, for $2 million for saying chlorpyrifos is safe. Currently, seven US state attorney generals have charged the Environmental Protection Agency with violating federal law by failing to issue required safety findings on chlorpyrifos. Meanwhile, in Canada, when Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency was audited in 2015, this pesticide was specifically mentioned as not being re-evaluated as required by law.

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