In part I of this post, we talked about how to protect your kids from pesticides in foods. That’s about to get easier for us!
If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you may have heard that it has been mandated that the US bans chlorpyrifos. Whether you know it or not, this is fantastic news for all of us, but especially children! As someone who has actually done research on this pesticide during my Ph.D. work, let me explain why.
Chlorpyrifos is one of many pesticides in the organophosphate class. Originally, organophosphates (OPs) weren’t pesticides, they were nerve agents developed by the Germans during WWII (ever heard of Sarin?). After the war, OPs were tamed a little by changing their chemical structures, and they began to be used as pesticides.
We used them unchecked for decades both on crops and as pest control in homes and lawns. In the 90’s, we realized we needed to update regulations on pesticides, so the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 was instated. This law required that, in order for pesticides to be allowed, there needed to be “reasonable certainty of no harm” and it called for a special focus on children’s health, since children are more susceptible to pesticides than adults. Now, we can argue over what “reasonable certainty of no harm” actually is, but let’s just move along. After the Act was instated, each pesticide on the market had to be studied so we could know if it was causing damage. Since researchers were looking for subtle, long-term effects, this research took a long time.
In 2000, after mounting evidence of chlorpyrifos’s hazards, manufacturers of chlorpyrifos agreed with the EPA to restrict its use residentally. In other words, chlorpyrifos was still allowed to be sprayed on crops on farms, but you could no longer buy it for insect control in your own home, and pest control workers couldn’t spray it in homes or schools anymore.
And it’s been 18 years. Since then, over 27 articles have come out showing neurodevelopmental effects caused by chlorpyrifos. I won’t go through all the details, but this research uses more sensitive measures than what the EPA has used to study chlorpyrifos all these years. Chlorpyrifos has been related to tremor in children, autism spectrum disorder, and changes in brain shape, among other things.
In October 2015, the EPA agreed to ban chlorpyifos. Celebration all around!
But then, …things…changed. I’m not political and don’t want to get into politics, but we do know that Dow Chemical (who manufactures chlorpyrifos) gave one million dollars to the most recent inaugural campaign, and its chairman and CEO was an advisor to the most recent administration. All that being said, Scott Pruitt, the new head of the EPA until only a few weeks ago, suddenly backpedaled on the decision to ban chlorpyrifos in March of 2017. I still know several renowned scientists in field, and they were shocked and saddened to hear their decades of work being thrown out by the EPA to the detriment of our children.
But truth has prevailed. Recently, the appellate court ordered the EPA to complete its ban on chlorpyrifos in the next sixty days. So while the tips we talked about a few days ago on how to avoid pesticides certainly still apply, we can feel good knowing that within the next few months we will no longer need to worry about one of the most toxic ones.