The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to limit the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos rather than take it off the market puts the health of children in the United States at risk.
Farmers have been using chlorpyrifos since 1965 under the trade name Lorsban, NPR reports. Chlorpyrifos is commonly used to keep insects and worms out of everything from almond groves to strawberry fields to citrus orchards. Until 2000 it was used indoors for keeping houseflies at bay. That was before the federal governments own environmental scientists linked the toxic chemicals in chlorpyrifos to serious health issues.
Residue from chlorpyrifos applications often shows up on unwashed supermarket produce. When the pesticide is ingested, it attacks the nervous system, and can cause dizziness, vomiting and diarrhea.
Farmers don’t even go near the stuff without special clothing to protect themselves, and the danger doesn’t stop there.
Chlorpyrifos has also been linked to stunted brain growth in children.
“Every spring season, children around the U.S. are facing low-dose exposure to this dangerous chemical,” Bonnie Wirtz, a Minnesota mother who was sickened, along with her infant son, by chlorpyrifos, told Chemical & Engineering News. “It is in the air they breathe, the water they drink, and the food they eat.”
Jim Jones, former President Obama’s assistant administrator of the EPA, was responsible for pesticide regulation when the danger to children was first made clear. “Federal scientists followed hundreds of mothers and their newborn children, monitoring their exposure to lots of chemicals,” NPR reports. “One of these studies, by researchers at Columbia University, measured the levels of chlorpyrifos in blood taken from umbilical cords when babies were born.”
That study led to chlorpyrifos being banned in agricultural use in 2015. Five years later, the Trump Administration EPA reversed its stance on chlorpyrifos, citing uncertainty about those previously proven risks, The New York Times reports.
The EPA directly contradicted federal scientists’ conclusions that chlorpyrifos causes developmental disabilities in children. Rather, the agency posted new rules for labeling packages containing chlorpyrifos and recommended wearing personal protection equipment during use and avoiding applications on windy days.
“By leaving this chemical on the market, we are gambling with the lives of children,” Wirtz said. “It is stealing their futures from them and increasing the amount of health care dollars they will need for treatment. It is breaking the hearts of parents who realize that their children will likely always struggle.”
Despite Trump’s backing, Corteva Agriscience, the largest producer of chlorpyrfios in the U.S., has decided to stop making the product though it may still remain on the market in other forms.
“We don’t feel like it’s viable going forward,” said Susanne Wasson, Corteva’s president of crop protection. “It was a business decision.”
According to the Washington Post, Corteva made the announcement the same day that California banned the sale of chlorphyrifos.
The health of our children is at risk as long as chlorphyrifos remains on the market. Click below to make a difference.