Under Barack Obama, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an agricultural ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to brain damage in children according to several studies. Donald Trump, however, has rejected the science, announcing a reversal of the ban.
The administration’s rejection of the science on chlorpyrifos means the dangerous pesticide will continue to be used in California’s Central Valley, and residents are worried their children’s health issues will worsen along with it.
“We know this is dangerous for the kids,” said Fidelia Morales, a 40-year-old mother of five, pointing at the citrus groves that surround her house as she recounted when an air blast sprayer sent chemicals floating onto her property last year – landing on her family’s red and blue jungle gym.
“What are we supposed to do?” she told The Guardian, speaking in Spanish through a translator.
Several families in Tulare County, a rural farming community three hours north of Los Angeles, shared stories with the Guardian of direct pesticide poisonings from drifts and the long-term health challenges that they believe are linked to chronic exposure.
They described children vomiting, suffering painful skin irritations, debilitating headaches, and dizziness, as well as developing autism, learning problems, attention deficit disorders and respiratory ailments.
“There’s a sense of helplessness. I’m being poisoned and I can’t do anything about it,” said Luis Medellin, a 30-year-old dairy worker, sitting with his three younger sisters at his family’s home in the small agricultural town of Lindsay. “It’s like a slow death.”
Pregnant women who lived near fields and farms that use chlorpyrifos are particularly at risk of having a child with autism, according to a University of California at Davis study.
Even low levels of chlorpyrifos exposure during pregnancy were also linked to lower IQs and memory problems, according to researchers at Columbia and UC Berkeley. Studies have further raised concerns about decreased lung function and reduced fertility.
Community organizer Angel Garcia, the founder of the Coalition for Advocating for Pesticide Safety, said that organizing against powerful agricultural interests is difficult in California and particularly in Tulare County.
“Money is the law here,” Garcia said as he drove past a row of citrus groves. He and other activists are pushing California to be a leader in the resistance to Trump and ban chlorpyrifos in the absence of EPA’s inaction, according to The Guardian.
Chlorpyrifos was banned because of environmental and health concerns. But the Trump administration, inexplicably, is bringing it back.