The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued an order to entirely ban agricultural lands from using a common pesticide called chlorpyrifos for various food crops due to its links to children's health issues.
In a statement, the agency said that it would be revoking "all tolerances" for the pesticide as even the allowable amount should no longer be permitted when it comes to food. The EPA said that it will soon file a Notice of Intent to Cancel food crops that still use chlorpyrifos for the ban to take effect.
EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said that the ban has long been overdue because of the "delays and denials from the previous administration" under President Donald Trump. He added that stopping the use of chlorpyrifos in food crops will safeguard the children's health and the farmers and many families.
What is Chlorpyrifos?
Chlorpyrifos is effective against controlling farm pests, insects, and worms. In its pure form, this chemical appears in white or colorless crystals with a slight odor similar to garlic or rotten egg.
It was registered with the EPA as an insecticide in the 1960s for various agricultural farmlands that harvest corn, apples, broccoli, and other produce. Golf courses in the U.S. also use this pesticide to keep the greens pristine and free of farm ants or mosquitoes. Some products for treating wood fences may also contain chlorpyrifos.
However, exposure to chlorpyrifos -- through eating, touching, or inhaling -- has been known to cause a malfunction in the nervous system as the chemical blocks the enzyme that controls the signals and messages traveling to the body's nerve cells. Symptoms of chlorpyrifos poisoning may include a runny nose, excessive saliva or drooling, tears, and sweats. The person may also feel dizzy and develop a headache, which could last for days if disregarded.
Serious exposures have more worrying symptoms, including muscle twitching and tremors, muscle weakness, vomiting, stomach cramps, loss of coordination, diarrhea, and blurred vision. In worst cases, the effect of the chemical may lead to convulsions, difficulty in breathing, unconsciousness, and paralysis.
In a peer-reviewed study published in the PNAS journal, experts tracked down real-time chlorpyrifos exposures in moms and children, which proved that the chemical could cause permanent neurological damage in the baby's brains. Experts said that even low levels of exposure might lead to low birth weight, reduced IQ, attention deficit disorders, and autism spectrum disorders.
Thus, household products with chlorpyrifos were banned in the U.S. in 2000, but the EPA held off the ban for agricultural use.
The decision to Ban Hailed
Under the Trump administration, the EPA subsequently denied at least two requests from health experts, advocates, and environmental groups to ban chlorpyrifos because it had critical questions about the studies and data tying the pesticide to the health risks. However, California, Maryland, Hawaii, and New York issued state-wide bans, so the use of the chemical has trickled down in many of their farms.
Members of the United Farm Workers of America applauded the EPA as it finally stopped the chemical's use nationwide. In a statement, the group said that they are relieved by the decision as farmworkers cannot hug their children when they get home after work, and they have to separate their clothes during laundry washing because they are aware of the risks. The ban will now end all the many negative and dangerous ways chlorpyrifos has affected their lives.
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