By the end of 2020, California farmers will no longer be allowed to use chlorpyrifos. Governor Gavin Newsom has characterized the ban as a “big win for children, workers and public health in California.”
The Los Angeles Times has reported that California is chlorpyrifos’ biggest user by state. Some 900,000 pounds of it was used to poison California crops in 2017 alone.
EPA Claims Chlorpyrifos Risk “Unresolved”
The EPA’s third risk assessment for chlorpyrifos, which is the result of litigation by environmental groups, claimed that “the science addressing [the pesticide’s] neurodevelopmental effects remains unresolved.” Meanwhile, the EPA’s own scientists have previously admitted that there is no safe level for chlorpyrifos exposure. This third EPA assessment did concede that there is some dietary risks to adults, children, and handlers of the chemical, as well dangers to animals.
Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate pesticide sprayed on crops, animals, and buildings to eliminate insects and worms, killing them by attacking their nervous systems through acetylcholinesterase enzyme inhibition. Such insecticides are also toxic to humans, of course. Experts estimate that more than 75 percent of Americans harbor traces of chlorpyrifos in their bodies, mostly from food residues. Those who work or live near farms or agricultural fields where chlorpyrifos is sprayed harbor significantly higher levels than most people.
Invented by Dow Chemical Company in 1966, chlorpyrifos is classified as “moderately hazardous” to humans by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Chlorpyrifos’ use on many foods and other crops includes corn, citrus fruit, walnuts, almonds, alfalfa, and cotton. The pesticide’s low cost has made it hugely popular, with millions of pounds being used by more than 40,000 farms to poison the country’s food yearly.
Chlorpyfiros was banned for home use in 2000, but it has nevertheless remained available for U.S. farmers for the last 20 years.
Chlorpyfiros injures Children
Chlorpyrifos studies have linked it to smaller infant birth weight and size. It has also been shown to cause developmental delays, lower scores on standard development tests, and brain changes indicated on MRIs.
Some of the most concerning chlorpyrifos studies have shown it leads to anxiety, hyperactivity, and decreased learning in rats. Even at very low doses. The results were so similar to those seen in human epidemiological studies that it has left little question about chlorpyrifos’ safety, or rather its slack of safety.
Chlorpyrifos already banned in many places
Environmental regulators in California have been trying for years to ban chlorpyrifos. It was already designated a toxic air contaminant that causes harm to the respiratory tract and skin. That designation enabled the new agreement to include a ban on spraying chlorpyrifos from the air.
Federal Ban Failed
California acted on its own after efforts to ban chlorpyrifos at the federal level failed. The EPA’s own scientists have asked for a ban, but EPA executives have overruled them. Consequently, several states have taken action of their own. Hawaii banned the pesticide. New York is working on its own ban in stages. Oregon recently passed a bill – over farmers’ groups’ objections – phasing chlorpyrifos out completely by 2022.
EU Banned Chlorpyrifos
The European Union has also banned chlorpyrifos. Th EU ban went into effect earlier in 2020 after the European Food Safety Authority found no safe exposure level for the chemical.
As part of its agreement with Dow and other makers of chlorpyrifos, California will pay $5.6 million to help pesticide makers develop a safer alternative.
Not long after the ban, chlorpyrifos primary maker, Corteva (formerly Dow Agrosciences), announced that it will end chlorpyrifos production by the end of 2020. A statement from the Dow spinoff read: “Due to this reduced demand, Corteva has made the strategic business decision to phase out our production of chlorpyrifos in 2020.” Other companies, however, are still making it.
Those who care about food devoid of chemical poisons hope that other states will follow California’s lead and protect their residents from this poisonous chemical.
U.S. Leads in Rubber-stamping Pesticides
Chlorpyrifos is not the only pesticide deserving of a ban. A 2019 study found that the U.S. allows 85 pesticides that have been banned in the European Union, Brazil, or even China (hardly a bastion of human rights). Those pesticides include paraquat, 2,4-DB, and dichlobenil.
California bans Pesticide linked to Brain Damage
As long as farmers spray dangerous chemicals on food crops, this fight will continue. We don’t need mass-produced food poisoned by pesticides. We need clean food to maintain our good health and sanity in an insane world.
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