We’ve come to know that getting California’s Department of Pesticide Regulations (DPR) to take action is an exercise in patience. But communities across California ran out of patience last week. They have been waiting for years for DPR to take action on the brain-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos, with few results.
In January, over 60 groups from across the state sent a letter urging DPR to protect California’s kids from exposure to chlorpyrifos. We also delivered a petition with over 12,000 signatures in March, urging the agency to take action on this issue. But DPR didn't respond, and took no action. In frustration, these groups — including PAN — sent another letter last week with renewed urgency, urging the state to protect children from the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos. Join us in this call for action!
A legacy of harm
In earlier blogs, I've noted that although it's been banned for home uses nationally — due to the health harms for kids — chlorpyrifos remains available for agricultural uses. Previous studies have shown that this pesticide is a suspected hormone disruptor and that prenatal exposure can have negative impacts on brain development, impairing perceptual reasoning, working memory and even reducing children's IQ.
And the evidence of harm continues to mount. In June this year, UC Davis released a new study, documenting that children whose mothers lived within one mile of fields treated with organophosphate pesticides (including chlorpyrifos) during their pregnancies were 60 percent more likely to have autism than children whose mothers didn't live close to treated fields. Additionally, children of women who lived near fields treated with chlorpyrifos in their second trimester were 3.3 times more likely to have autism. Those are very worrisome findings to say the least.
Kids and chlorpyrifos shouldn’t mix
This information is even more pertinent as kids head back to school. A recent report by the California Department of Public Health showed that chlorpyrifos was the eighth most commonly used pesticide within a quarter mile of schools in 15 counties across the state, potentially exposing tens of thousands of school children to this health-harming pesticide.
We need to phase out the use of chlorpyrifos to protect California’s kids.
In addition to the threat of exposure from fields, chlorpyrifos is also found as a residue on many fruits and vegetables. USDA data show chlorpyrifos residues on apples, oranges, broccoli, grapes and more — foods kids like and are encouraged to eat. In short, children throughout the state are being exposed, with those living in rural agricultural areas getting a double dose.
So much science points in one direction: we need to phase out the use of chlorpyrifos to protect California’s kids, in addition rural communities and farmworkers. And it’s not that viable alternatives to chlorpyrifos don’t exist. They do, and several innovative California farmers have already stopped using this pesticide.
Given the clear science highlighting health harms, and the existence of viable alternatives, it's very frustrating for me — not to mention thousands of Californians — that DPR moves at such a glacial pace. Time for action! Please join us in urging DPR to get in gear on chlorpyrifos.