GroundTruth Blog

Kristin Schafer's blog

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President Obama faces a profound decision as he considers who will step into Lisa Jackson's shoes. Over the past decade, EPA has become a lightening rod for the heated partisan debate about the size and role of government. The agency has also come to serve as a rhetorical punching bag for those determined to pit environmental protection against economic growth.

The next EPA leader's stance on these big picture issues will inform decisions with very "small picture" impacts, decisions that will directly affect the health and well being of families across the country. From tackling pesticides in our air, water and food to what we do about energy and climate change challenges, this choice will matter. Hugely.

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On the heels of last week's strong report from pediatricians highlighting the harms pesticides can cause children's developing minds, a new study finds that pesticides are clearly harming adult brains, too.

In the "meta-analysis" published in Critical Reviews in Toxicology, scientists reviewed 14 separate studies of neurobehavioral changes linked to low-level organophosphate (OP) pesticide exposure. They found that workers exposed to OPs — particularly over long periods of time — had reduced working memory and were slower to process information.

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It makes no sense. FDA's decision this week to allow continued use of the neurotoxic pesticide lindane in children's lice shampoos has me completely stumped.

The pesticide's use in pet products were withdrawn long ago. Then agricultural uses were pulled, back in 2006. Yet FDA just re-blessed the lindane products that put children most directly at risk, shampoos applied to their heads and lotions to their bodies. These products have been banned for years in dozens of countries — including by our neighbors in Mexico — and in California since 2001. What is FDA thinking??

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When a child’s health is on the line, moms will often stand up in truly courageous ways. Like the mothers in the small, rural community of Lindsay, California who were concerned about how pesticides were affecting their children.

These central valley moms enrolled in a project back in 2006 to monitor how much chlorpyrifos — a commonly used insecticide — was drifting into their homes from nearby fields and orchards, using a simple “Drift Catcher” tool. They also signed up for biomonitoring, a way to find out how much of that pesticide was then making it into their bodies, and likely also into the bodies of their children.

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Like others across the country, this Thursday I'll be joining extended family and friends to celebrate each other and the earth's bounty. I look forward to meeting up with cousins coming to town from distant cities, and enjoying the yummy dishes we'll all contribute to the feast.

I'm also hoping we keep the acephate, methamidophos and chlorothalonil off the menu. (Easy for me to say, right?) Sadly, according to government testing, these hard-to-pronounce pesticides are among those commonly found on green beans. And they're not good for you.