Aug. 10 (UPI) -- A federal court on Thursday ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide used in farming that health officials say can harm the brain and nervous system.
In a 2-to-1 decision, the three-judge panel in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals gave the EPA two months to finalize the ban.
In 2000, the EPA banned chlorpyrifos in household uses but said the chemical could still be used in commercial agriculture, where some scientists say is not harmful if used in safe quantities.
Recent data found the chemical is used in more than 50 fruit, nut, cereal and vegetable crops including apples, almonds, oranges and broccoli. In 2016, California treated more than 640,000 acres with the chemical.
In 2007, public health officials petitioned the EPA for a ban on chlorpyrifos and in 2015, the 9th Circuit appellate court ordered the EPA to make a decision about the chemical.
Two years later, the Trump administration determined against an outright ban on the chemical.
Thursday's ruling came with fierce comments by the court, blasting both Democratic and Republican leadership for stalling the ban.
"If Congress's statutory mandates are to mean anything, the time has come to put a stop to this patent evasion," the opinion reads.
EPA spokesman Michael Abboud said the EPA is reviewing the decision, while public health advocates and environmentalists celebrated the ruling.
"Finally, decades of poisonous exposures and harm to children and farmworkers will end," said Marisa Ordonia, lawyer for Earthjustice, a litigation-focused environmental advocacy group. "EPA's shameful history of putting industry cronies before the people they are supposed to protect is over."
Trade organizations for the pesticide industry dispute the chemical poses any threats.
Gregg Schmidt, spokesman for chemical company DowDuPont, said chlorpyrifos is a critical pest management tool used by growers around the world to manage a large number of pests.
"Regulatory bodies in 79 countries have looked at the science, carefully evaluated the product and its significant benefits, and continued to approve its use," Schmidt said. "We expect that all appellate options to challenge the majority's decision will be considered. We will continue to support the growers who need this important product."