MAY 31, 2017 5:33 PM PDT

A toxic pesticide that the EPA refused to ban has poisoned farmers

Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide that can cause neurological disorders and harm brain development. The toxic pesticide was banned from indoor use more than ten years ago, but it is stilled often sprayed outside on crops such as oranges, apples, cherries, grapes and broccoli. What’s more, because residue remains on produce when it’s shipped, studies have shown that roughly 90 percent of American women have unsafe levels of chlorpyrifos in their bloodstreams. Children are particularly vulnerable to chlorpyrifos and are estimated to be exposed to more than 140 times the safe limit. Which all goes to say, the thing is toxic, and we shouldn’t be using it. Because of this, the pesticide was supposed to be banned by the Environmental Protection Agency in March, however EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt overruled the ban. Only months later, in early May, more than 50 farmworkers outside of Bakersfield, California, were exposed to the pesticide, resulting in twelve people falling ill.

“Twelve people reported symptoms of vomiting [and] nausea and one person fainted," reported the television news station Kern Golden Empire. "An additional twelve workers did not show signs of any symptoms," the station reported. "However more than half of the farm workers left before medical aide arrived."

Officials urged people to take caution. "Anybody that was exposed, that was here today, we encourage them to seek medical attention immediately. Don't wait. Particularly if you're suffering from any symptoms. Whether it's nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seek medical attention immediately," Michelle Corson, public relations officer at Kern County Public Health, stated on TV.

The market name of the pesticide the farmers were exposed to is Vulcan; it contains high levels of chlorpyrifos. It apparently drifted onto the farm via wind, from another farm nearby. Dan Andrews runs the farm and insisted that they don’t use chlorpyrifos.

“Unfortunately the wind moved it onto us, I’m not quite sure how it happened, thank God everyone’s OK,” he told Guardian US. “There were quite a few people feeling sick, some of them vomited, so we shut down the harvest.

“We are waiting for the investigation to conclude but I think they should ban (chlorpyrifos) to remove what’s causing the nausea. If it has had a history of incidents then it should be revisited and removed. Usually you worry about your own ranch, you don’t want to worry about other ranches. We are going to have to do due diligence before our shifts now.”

Chlorpyrifos is still used on farms to spray crops such as strawberries, apples, oranges, and broccoli. Photo: The Poor Traveler

Chlorpyrifos is produced by Dow Chemicals and you don’t have to look too deep to see that Dow is sitting pretty in the Trump administration. The company gave $1 million to the president's inaugural committee, according to the Center for Public Integrity. President Trump also named Dow Chemical Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris chair of the American Manufacturing Council, stating that Liveris would "find ways to bring industry back to America."

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt justified denying the ban, saying that the pesticide gives “regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos”. The EPA stated that the plan to ban the toxin had “serious scientific concerns and substantive process gaps” The chemical isn’t scheduled to be reviewed again until 2022.

Sources: The Guardian, Mother Jones,  The New York Times

About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
OCT 09, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Scientists Upcycle Plastics to Fight Climate Change
OCT 09, 2022
Scientists Upcycle Plastics to Fight Climate Change
In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a team of researchers led by the University ...
OCT 12, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
Detecting Cannabis at an Ancient Shrine at Tel Arad in Israel
OCT 12, 2022
Detecting Cannabis at an Ancient Shrine at Tel Arad in Israel
While Cannabis has only recently become legalized in many areas of the world, it’s been with us for thousands of y ...
OCT 18, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Supercomputer Divulges Immediate Formation of Moon
OCT 18, 2022
Supercomputer Divulges Immediate Formation of Moon
Numerous theories have evolved over the years as to how the Earth’s Moon came to be, with one early theory suggest ...
NOV 02, 2022
Plants & Animals
New fossil fish moves evolution of jaws back 14 million years
NOV 02, 2022
New fossil fish moves evolution of jaws back 14 million years
Newly discovered fossil fish in China suggest an earlier origin for the evolution of jaws
NOV 18, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Grad Student Highlights: Marc Berghouse (University of Nevada, Reno)
NOV 18, 2022
Grad Student Highlights: Marc Berghouse (University of Nevada, Reno)
This interview series is focused on the graduate student experience across all STEM fields that allows them to get their ...
DEC 02, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
CO2 Levels Show No Sign of Slowing Down
DEC 02, 2022
CO2 Levels Show No Sign of Slowing Down
Global carbon emissions show no sign of slowing down despite a need to stay below 1.5°C of total warming, an article ...
Loading Comments...