California Bans Pesticide That Harms Brain Development

Video: Earth Justice

California’s tough environmental regulations — and its divide with the Trump Administration on all things environment — just got bigger.  The San Francisco Chronicle and The Washington Post reported yesterday that California is placing a ban on agricultural use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which is used on a wide variety of crops “from apples to walnuts” because it is harmful to the farmworkers who spray it and children who ingest it.

  • California health officials made their decision because of mounting evidence that the pesticide can cause serious health effects on sensitive populations and children — even when exposed at only low levels.
  • The Governor of California proposed a fund of $5.7 million to support the transition to safer alternatives.
  • The ban will take 2 years to go into effect.

CBS News reported that:

  • The pesticide is chemically similar to a nerve gas developed by Nazi Germany before World War II.
  • Its heavy use has often left traces in drinking water sources.
  • A University of California at Berkeley study in 2012 found that 87 percent of umbilical cord blood samples tested from newborn babies contained detectable levels of the pesticide.

Other states have taken similar action banning it — as we have covered — including Hawaii (ban goes into effect in 2022), New York (ban goes into effect in 2021), and the states of Oregon, Connecticut, and New Jersey are debating whether to put a ban in place.  Federal regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have so far maintained, along with its manufacturer DowDupont, that the product is safe and have refused to ban or regulate its use further.  Scientists recommended it be banned because it has been firmly linked to reduced IQ and attention deficit disorder in children. Moreover, for farmworkers, chlorpyrifos causes convulsions, respiratory paralysis, and, in extreme cases, death. When sprayed, the chemical drifts from fields into schools and homes. 

Why This Matters: Chlorypforos is dangerous.  The Obama Administration proposed banning it in 2015, but then EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed that decision in 2017. Last August, as we reported, a federal court ordered EPA to impose the ban because of the agency’s own overwhelming scientific evidence of its harms on the mental and physical development of infants and children.  The Trump Administration has asked the court to reconsider and also to give the EPA more time to “justify” its use in agriculture. And of course, DowDupont vowed to fight the State of California.

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