On of the first of these lawsuits was filed last fall. Alba Luz Calderon de Cerda and Rafael Cerda Martinez v. Corteva Inc., etal., was filed Sept. 18 in Kings County Superior Court in Hanford (Case No. 20C-250). The case alleges injuries to children caused by their exposure to the pesticide which has now been banned by the state of California. Dow Chemical produces chlorpyrifos under the brand names Lorsban and Dursban.
At least 50 more plaintiffs have also come forward. More new cases are expected to be filed soon on behalf of other central California families whose children were harmed by chlorpyrifos exposure.
Chlorpyrifos Checkered History
The dangers of chlorpyrifos have been well known for decades. Chlorpyrifos oxon — created when chlorpyrifos is used according to Dow’s own label instructions — is in the same family of pesticides as the chemical warfare agent Sarin gas. This classification of chemicals was first developed by the Nazis in the 1930s. Chlorpyrifos oxon is one thousand times as toxic in mammals as chlorpyrifos itself. In seeking broad use of the poison, Dow failed to disclose the fact that chlorpyrifos quickly converts to chlorpyrifos oxon when used according to label directions when mixing with water. Dow also failed to disclose the fact that chlorpyrifos also converts through exposure to sunlight and other environmental factors. In certain conditions, the toxic effects of chlorpyrifos oxon can last for months or years. Harmful, chronic low level exposure can occur 24 hours a day. Ongoing contamination can taint food, water, clothing, cars, houses, and many household items, including toys.
Chlorpyrifos also Poisons Food Crops
Since it was first used in 1965, a mounting tome of scientific evidence has shown chlorpyrifos linked with neurological disorders in children. As a result, chlorpyrifos was banned for household use in 2001. But due to pesticide and farming industry “donations” to politicians, along with heavy lobbying and political pressure on regulatory agencies like the EPA, it is still widely used on a huge portion of the food we eat, including corn, soy, and many vegetables and fruits.
The California lawsuit filed last fall alleges that 17-year-old Rafael Calderon Cerda suffers from severe disorders including autism, cognitive and intellectual disabilities and ADHD, as a result of chlorpyrifos exposure. The young man will need special care for the rest of his life.
The petition states that he was exposed both in utero and also throughout his early childhood development.
The young man’s parents, Alba Luz Calderon de Cerda and Rafael Cerda Martinez, are suing Dow and others — including the California cities of Avenal and Huron and several entities that sprayed the pesticide — seeking to recover payments for Rafael Jr.’s care. The plaintiffs accuse Dow of hiding the dangers of chlorpyrifos from the company’s customers and unsuspecting public.
“Young Rafael and others like him were literally awash in this deadly chemical before they were born,” said his family’s’ attorney. “Their central nervous systems never had a chance.”
Chlorpyfiros in Workplace, Food, Water Supply
The complaint says it’s not difficult to trace how the toxic chemical reached Rafael Calderon Cerda and injured him.
Alba Luz packed chlorpyrifos-covered produce in a packing house while she was pregnant. Her workplace was also surrounded by fields of crops drenched in chlorpyrifos from the air. Aerial spraying commonly leads to overspray and spray drift. Rafael Jr.’s father sprayed the pesticide in the fields. His clothes and skin were routinely contaminated by chlorpyrifos.
On top of that exposure, the petition alleges that the Huron apartment building where the family lived during Alba’s pregnancy was located near heavy, indiscriminate spraying of chlorpyrifos that contaminated the city’s water. The family used that water for bathing, cooking, and drinking. The contamination continued when Rafael Jr. was eight months old. At that time, the family moved to Avenal, which had a water supply that was also contaminated with chlorpyrifos. Alba drank the tap water from the contaminated California Aqueduct during her pregnancy, which further exposed Rafael, Jr.
The complaint also alleges that the entire community and everyone living and working in it were exposed to the pesticide. The exposure was constant and it continues today. The petition claims that chlorpyrifos contaminates local walls, ducts, carpets, and drinking water.
California bans Chlorpyrifos, Feds Fail
In February 2020, California made it illegal to sell chlorpyrifos. The U.S. EPA’s own research on the damage chlorpyrifos causes children led that agency to recommend a ban in 2015. However, a nationwide prohibition was not achieved before the 2016 election. The EPA’s recommendation was then stalled until Sept. 22, 2020, when the agency rejected its own scientific review in a victory for chemical makers.
Lawsuits Seek Justice for California Family harmed by Dow’s Pesticide Chlorpyrifos
“While this lawsuit can’t undo the damage done to countless families in central California, it will begin to bring justice to these communities,” said the family’s lawyer.
Top Manufacturer Stops Making Chlorpyrifos
Soon after California banned the use of chlorpyrifos, in January 2020, Corteva announced that it would stop making it by the end of 2020 due. Corteva attributed that move to “declining sales.” Meanwhile, California had given companies a deadline of February 6, 2020 to stop selling chlorpyrifos. The state’s ban dramatically reduced the agricultural market for chlorpyrifos, though the coming lawsuits may have also played a part.