California bans pesticide linked to brain damage in kids yet defended by Trump administration
California Governor Gavin Newsom has taken critical action to protect generations of California children from the serious health effects of a dangerous pesticide called chlorpyrifos. Newsom’s administration has banned the use of the toxic chemical. In a revised state budget, he also allocated $5.7 million towards finding an alternative pesticide that takes a safer “holistic and nature-based approach.” The funds will also provide assistance to farmers as they transition to something safer.
The chlorpyrifos pesticide, an organophosphate that is also a poisonous neurotoxin, has been studied for years and research has determined that exposure is linked to impaired brain and neurological development in children. The toxin also affects farmworkers who are routinely exposed. The chemical attacks the nervous system, causing bursts of nerve firing in the brain which damage neural pathways.
The Environmental Protection Agency moved to ban the chemical during President Obama’s term, but a year later, President Trump’s administration rejected the scientific conclusions of their own government experts and moved to stop the ban. (see more in the video below)
“We’re saying, ‘Enough is enough.’ We can’t wait for the federal government, which has been very slow and has kind of flip-flopped,” Jared Blumenfeld, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, said in an interview.
The move to ban chlorpyrifos protects California’s farmworkers, kids, and more.
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) May 8, 2019
The Guardian notes that epidemiological studies linked the pesticide to a number of health problems.
“Epidemiological studies have linked chlorpyrifos to a number of health conditions. Pregnant women living near fields and farms that use the chemical have an increased risk of having a child with autism. Exposure to low to moderate levels of chlorpyrifos during pregnancy have also been associated with lower IQs and memory problems. California officials cited a recent review by a state panel on toxic air contaminants, which found the effects in children could occur at lower levels than previously understood.”
Blumenfeld said banning chlorpyrifos will protect the health and even the intelligence of future Californians.
“A lot of people live close to fields, schools are close to fields,” said Blumenfeld, who worked for the federal EPA under the Obama administration. “This actually reduces the IQ of Californians.”
Since the ban doesn’t go into effect for up to two years, Californians will still be at risk, though farmers will not be allowed to use aerial spraying methods.
Farmers have used the pesticide for decades to protect crops like almonds, which are a major crop in California. The state produces 80 percent of the world’s supply of the nuts. Chlorpyrifos was developed in the 60s by Dow Chemical as an alternative to the also dangerous DDT chemical.
Nevertheless, the California Farm Bureau Federation has argued to keep chlorpyrifos legal, fearing that the ban of the popular pesticide would raise costs and lower the production of produce.
California joins Hawaii in banning chlorpyrifos. New York has passed a bill that has not yet gone into effect. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has been ordered by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to come to a decision on banning chlorpyrifos.
— Miriam Rotkin-Ellman (@Miriam_NRDC) August 9, 2018
An environmental group sued the Trump administration for reversing the Obama-era ban and the court ordered the federal EPA to prohibit the use of chlorpyrifos. The government then appealed the decision, which prompted the courts to order the EPA to reach a decision this summer.
DowDuPont, whose predecessor donated to Trump, has argued that the pesticide is “an important tool for farmers” used for decades, and approved for use in around 100 countries.
Residential use of chlorpyrifos has been banned in the US since 2001, but it was once sold under brand names like Raid, which reformulated their product after the ban.
Watch this great video on the Trump administration, California farmers and residents, and chlorpyrifos from PBS News Hour below:
Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube