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Chlorpyrifos Causes Brain Damage in Children

Saturday, September 22, 2018By Richard Alexander and Nina Fulcher

In 2015 under the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed ban on the commercial sales of chlorpyrifos. Chlorpyrifos was used widely in consumer products such as Dursban and Raid. It was banned for consumer use in approximately 2000. But commercially the use continued, primarily in corn, soybeans, fruit and nut trees, brussels sprouts, cranberries, broccoli, and cauliflower, as well as other row crops.

Chlorpyrifos is harmful if touched, inhaled, or eaten. It kills bugs by blocking an enzyme which controls messages that travel between nerve cells. When the enzyme is blocked, the nervous system can't send normal signals and eventually kills pests.

Infants and young children are most affected by this chemical.

In 2017 Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, ignored the evidence of the danger of this pesticide to children, reversed course and extended a review of the substance, over-riding the proposed ban, notwithstanding the recommendation of agency scientists to ban all commercial use of chlorpyrifos. Pruitt, an advocate for the use pesticide, among other controversies, resigned from the head of the EPA in August 2018.  

Since President Donald Trump's arrival in office, the chemical industry convinced the EPA that existing chemical production will benefit from less rigid risk assessment. In reality, this action violated the EPA’s statutory duty to protect human health, ignoring explicit child health policy dating back to 1995 that requires all national public health standards to address the special vulnerability of infants and children.

Fortunately, in August the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the proposed EPA action and held there was no justification for Pruitt’s 2017 order to maintain a tolerance level for chlorpyrifos in the face of scientific evidence that residue on food causes neurodevelopmental damage to children. The Court further held that the EPA action was in direct contravention of the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.

In December 2017 California added chlorpyrifos to the State’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals. The list contains a wide range of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm.

This year California's state pesticide agency has issued a new rule forcing growers to stop using drift-prone application methods from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays within a quarter mile of schools and daycare centers. This swift action arrives after a study conducted in 2014 that show 9 percent of the 2,511 schools surveyed in 15 leading agricultural counties had substantial amounts of pesticides applied within a quarter mile. A report done by the pesticide agency found that nearly half the pesticides used in 2016 were applied to crops in five Central Valley of California: Fresno, Kern, Tulare, Madera and San Joaquin. These 5 countries produce a substantial portion of the nation’s almond, pistachio, grape, and citrus crops.

The state of Hawaii took direct action on chlorpyrifos in 2018 and ordered the phase out of all use of chlorpyrifos in the islands by 2023.

Anyone having an old can of Raid or Dursban should assure its safe disposal and to prevent these toxins from injuring family members, visitors and pets.

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