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Faculty & Staff Honors

Maryland: Bans Chlorpyrifos Pesticide with Expert Testimony From Prof. Devon Payne-Sturges

Maryland became the fourth U.S. state to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos, and testimony and advocacy over the past four years from the University of Maryland School of Public Health’s Dr. Devon Payne-Sturges, assistant professor of applied environmental health, was influential in making it happen.  

Chlorpyrifos, a toxic, nerve-agent pesticide, has been found to damage children’s brain development and poses threats to aquatic life, pollinators and the Chesapeake Bay. 

Dr. Payne-Sturges testified to the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee in support of the bill, along with pediatricians, research scientists, environmental health advocates, farmers and retailers.

Chlorpyrifos is linked to neurodevelopmental issues, autism and cancer in children, as well as breast cancer in premenopausal women. Payne-Sturges said that exposures to even very low doses of chlorpyrifos during critical windows of pregnancy can result in child cognitive problems and motor delays — and the effects can be life-long. 

After years of study, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that chlorpyrifos was unsafe and proposed a rule to ban it in 2015. The Trump Administration killed the proposed rule weeks after taking office. Since then, California, Hawaii and New York have instituted chlorpyrifos bans, as has the European Union.

“States are stepping into the void where the federal government has not acted,” Dr. Payne-Sturges said. 

Dr. Payne-Sturges worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for 12 years and is an expert on how pesticides, such as chlorpyrifos, affect children’s health. This was the third legislative session she has pushed for the ban. 

The legislation heads next to Gov. Larry Hogan.

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