By Alexandrea Gosnell, League of Conservation Voters
The Trump administration continues to support the profits of big chemical companies at the expense of the health of our children, farmers and farm workers. And they’re at it once again, delaying all decisions to ban a hazardous pesticide, chlorpyrifos, which has had devastating impacts on farm workers, their families, and their communities at large. While EPA scientists know the dangers of this pesticide, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has decided to ignore these facts and suspend all decisions about banning the chemical for five years. Senator Tom Udall (NM) said it best: “Our kids can’t wait until 2022.”
Chlorpyrifos, though banned for household use, is widely used as an insecticide and is known to cause developmental delays in babies and young children. It has been conclusively proven that chlorpyrifos is linked to learning, memory and attention impairments. These are not exaggerated statements, but rather scientific facts demonstrated time and time again—even by the EPA’s own researchers. There are countless heartbreaking and tragic stories about children and farm workers who have experienced devastating health impacts after being exposed to this chemical. So why is this deadly neurotoxin still allowed to be used on farms? The answer is simple: it shouldn’t be.
At a press conference on July 25, Senator Udall and Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT) joined scientists, Latino community members, parents and other concerned stakeholders to call for a complete ban on chlorpyrifos. A ban is the only way to stop this toxic chemical from contaminating our food and drinking water and putting our farmworkers in harm’s way.
One particularly tragic story at the press conference came from Alex Buron, a member of Latinos Unidos Siempre, whose father was diagnosed with a brain tumor after working on a farm that used chlorpyrifos. He recounted the pain of watching his father suffer, pain that was compounded by the stresses his father endured as an immigrant who faced a language barrier. Chlorpyrifos harms more than just weeds, Buron explained: “The purpose of this chemical is to kill and it continues to do that. It continues to destroy families. It continues to destroy futures.”
Historically, the health complaints of farm workers, who are often people of color, have been dismissed and disregarded. As a representative from the United Farm Workers Union said during the press conference, as the issue of workers’ rights gained prominence in the 1930s, farmers were marginalized and weren’t given the same rights as others because most farmers were black. Today, with an administration that knowingly allows farmworkers and their families to be exposed to dangerous and toxic pesticides like chlorpyrifos, this historical oppression continues. We cannot allow it. Banning chlorpyrifos is about more than just one pesticide: it is about environmental justice and ensuring that our children and our communities of color do not continue to bear the burden of this inequality.
Senator Blumenthal made it abundantly clear that if the EPA refuses to protect the welfare of all our children, Congress will step in. Senators Udall and Blumenthal, joined by Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Cory Booker (NJ), Kamala Harris (CA), Dick Durbin (IL), Ben Cardin (MD) and Ed Markey (MA), showed they would do just that by introducing a bill to ban this dangerous pesticide. The Protect Children, Farmers and Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act of 2017 is another signal to the administration that we will not stand by as they sacrifice human health.
What can you do? Learn more about the dangers of chlorpyrifos here, and thank those senators who are standing up to the Trump administration’s attack on the health of our children, farmers, and farmworkers. Tell your senator to support this bill too. The health of our children is worth fighting for!