California has a major opportunity to ban a dangerous pesticide that damages children’s brains, sickens farmworkers and communities living near farms, and is unsafe at any level.(1)
Chlorpyrifos is sprayed on fruits and vegetables like strawberries, broccoli, apples, and oranges, and it gets absorbed into the food — which means that it can’t simply be rinsed off. When pregnant mothers have been exposed to chlorpyrifos, it’s been linked to autism, lower birth weight, and developmental delays in cognition, motor control, and attention in their children.(2) Exposure to chlorpyrifos can cause seizures, coma, and death. In May, the pesticide sickened 47 farmworkers in California.(3)
Donald Trump stopped the Environmental Protection Agency from banning chlorpyrifos earlier this year, but Gov. Jerry Brown can still ban the chemical in California. This would have a huge impact — California grows two thirds of the country’s fruit and nuts, and a third of our vegetables. If we ban chlorpyrifos in California, it will eliminate 20% of the United States market for the pesticide and save countless consumers, farmworkers, and communities from exposure.(4)
Governor Brown cares deeply about his environmental legacy, and he’s promised to resist the Trump administration’s environmental agenda. That’s why, led by our partners at Californians for Pesticide Reform, we will deliver your petition signature to Gov. Brown following a rally at the State Capitol this Wednesday! If he hears from enough of us in California and the rest of the nation, we believe that he’ll do the right thing.
All pesticides are poison — that’s the point. But chlorpyrifos is part of a family of chemicals called organophosphates that are particularly hazardous to human health. Studies have shown that other organophosphate pesticides are linked to lower IQ scores, attention problems, abnormal reflexes, and lung problems in children.(5) There is also abundant evidence that chlorpyrifos itself is harmful, and likely not safe at any level of exposure.
Chlorpyrifos is descended from a World War II-era nerve gas.(6) It causes brain damage in baby rats, and it’s been linked to many harmful effects in humans. Researchers at the EPA weren’t able to determine any safe level of chlorpyrifos exposure.
There are huge numbers of people eating fruits and vegetables sprayed with chlorpyrifos, but they aren’t the only ones at risk. Chlorpyrifos ends up contaminating drinking water, especially in agricultural communities. And it can drift onto neighboring fields, ending up on food that isn’t directly sprayed with it. Farmworkers and people living near farms are especially vulnerable to exposure. For example, 47 farmworkers in California’s Central Valley were sickened — with some hospitalized — after wind blew chlorpyrifos onto them from a neighboring farm.
The Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of chlorpyrifos in homes in 2001. Since then, it’s studied the chemical extensively and recommended that it be banned.(7) But now, Donald Trump’s EPA is rejecting its own earlier scientific conclusions, putting off a final determination on whether to ban it until 2022.(8)
That might be due to the fact that Dow Chemical, which manufactures most of the nation’s chlorpyrifos, donated $1 million dollars to Trump’s inaugural committee. Its CEO is a friend and adviser of Trump’s who has appeared at various events with him, and stood next to Trump when he signed an executive order aimed at rolling back regulations.(9) The company’s lawyers pushed Trump’s EPA not to ban chlorpyrifos and other dangerous pesticides — and Trump’s EPA gave them exactly what they wanted.
California has a long history of setting higher environmental standards than the federal government, and because it’s such a big state, California’s standards often end up becoming the de facto standard for the entire country. California’s stricter standards for emissions from cars, for example, have pushed the entire auto industry to make cars that pollute less.
California recently joined six other states in challenging the EPA’s decision not to ban chlorpyrifos.(10) But California in particular is in a unique position to do more than that. California has the power to ban the use of chlorpyrifos in the state, and if it does, it will mean that a huge portion of the country’s food is no longer sprayed with the chemical. It will also deal a huge financial blow to Dow Chemical and make it less profitable for them to continue making chlorpyrifos.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation is the state agency that can ban pesticides, but they’ve said they have no plans to do it. If the governor gets involved, though, he can make it happen.
Yours in the fight for a healthy environment,
William, along with Annie, Brenna, Caitlin, Cheyenne, Eddie, Emma, Kelsey, Lindsay, Mahdi, Mary, Molly, Raquel, Scottie, Susannah, and Tim (the Courage team)
5. See footnote 1