VIDEO: Udall and Blumenthal, Joined by Moms, Farmworkers, Child Development Experts and Advocates, Unveil Bill to Ban Dangerous Pesticide Chlorpyrifos
Senators say bill is urgently needed after EPA’s Pruitt overruled his own EPA scientists in March and refused a ban; Pruitt decision came just weeks after meeting with Dow Chemical CEO, which manufacturers chlorpyrifos
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) held a press conference to announce their bill to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos, a dangerous neurotoxin linked to brain damage in children. The Protect Children, Farmers & Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act, would be the first time a bill has been introduced to ban this dangerous pesticide. The senators say their move is urgently needed after Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt rejected EPA scientists’ determination that all food applications of the pesticide are unsafe and that the chemical risks harm to children, farmers, and farmworkers. Saying the science isn't settled, Pruitt put the decision off until 2022. Pruitt’s move came just weeks after meeting with Dow Chemical, the manufacturer of chlorpyrifos and a chlorpyrifos alternative.
In addition to Udall and Blumenthal, the bill, S.1624, is co-sponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). A basic summary is available here.
"Congress must act because Administrator Pruitt has shown that he won’t. There is no question chlorpyrifos needs to come off the market. The science linking chlorpyrifos to brain damage and neurodevelopmental disorders in children is undeniable. The EPA's own scientists have established that chlorpyrifos on food and in groundwater is a threat to public health and should be banned." Udall said. "But, by kicking the can down the road to 2022, the head of the EPA – the man whose agency is explicitly tasked with protecting American families from exposure to toxic chemicals – is putting the interests of Dow Chemical ahead of our children’s health. The science hasn’t changed since EPA proposed banning chlorpyrifos in 2015 and 2017. Only the politics have. We can’t wait until 2022 for the EPA to act - Congress must pass this legislation urgently to protect the health of our children, farmers, and farmworkers from this toxic pesticide.”
Blumenthal said: “Chlorpyrifos poisons people – particularly children – and damages their nerves. For me as a parent, let alone a public official, that says enough. We have an obligation in the Congress to do the right thing to protect people from this neurotoxin. Chlorpyrifos is a substance that has no necessity, it has no justification. It should be banned. There is a compelling issue of conscience here. This nation has an obligation to do better than allow this neurotoxin to continue poisoning children, workers, and other victims.”
Called the DDT of our time, chlorpyrifos is one of the most common pesticides used on fruits and vegetables, including strawberries, apples, oranges, corn and broccoli. Scientists believe exposure to chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxin related to sarin gas, damages children’s brains, causing reduced IQ, loss of working memory, and attention deficit disorders. Children, farmers and farmworkers, particularly those in rural Latino communities, are particularly at risk, but chlorpyrifos has been found in unsafe levels in drinking water, as well as in and on fruits and vegetables purchased at the store — even washed and peeled oranges can contain the chemical. Unlike with DDT, however, the government has refused to act, choosing to side with manufacturers over children's health, despite the urging of scientists and public health advocates around the world. The dangers to children are so acute that the American Academy of Pediatrics wrote Pruitt in June that his insistence on allowing the use of chlorpyrifos "puts all children at risk.”
The bill has support from a broad cross-section of people, representing parents, pediatricians, children's health and safety advocates, farmworkers, and Latino communities. Several spoke out today during and after a news conference on the Capitol grounds to unveil the legislation:
“We must protect the health of our kids, families and workers,” said Bonnie Wirtz, a Minnesota mother whose young son suffered from chlorpyrifos exposure when they lived near a farm. "No family should be facing a life of special needs because of chlorpyrifos.” Wirtz’ son has since been diagnosed with a neurodevelopment disorder.
“The medical evidence is consistent and it is overwhelming,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan, Professor of Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine and Dean for Global Health in the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "Children are extensively exposed to chlorpyrifos, and chlorpyrifos can cause permanent injury to children’s brains, and these risks are greatest to unborn children. Chlorpyrifos reduces children’s intelligence, impairs their social functioning, and ultimately reduces their ability to contribute to the United States of America. To permit the continuing exposure of unborn children to a chemical that damages their brains is not only an affront to morality, but also a threat to the security of our nation.”
“EPA has failed to protect people, especially children and pregnant women, from chlorpyrifos,” said Maureen Swanson, director of the Healthy Children Project at the Learning Disabilities Association of America. "Unless lawmakers take action now, this terrible pesticide will continue to harm babies’ brain development and put them at risk for learning and developmental disabilities.”
“On May 5th, Aileen, a young woman — 19 years old – went to work in the fields in a cabbage patch,” Giev Kashkooli, vice president of the United Farm Workers of America, said. “About an hour in to when Aileen was working, she started noticing some of her coworkers slowing down, beginning to stop work, and then several fainting. She herself became cautious, her lips started tingling, her mouth was dry, and she watched in horror as workers, and her coworkers, and her friends around her began to vomit and continued to pass out. They had no idea what was happening. They eventually, some of them, on their own, made it to a doctor. They learned only days later that a farm nearby had sprayed the chemical Vulcan which includes chlorypryrifos this should not happen."
“Chlorpyrifos is a toxic pesticide that continues to poison our food, contaminate our water, and harm our communities’ health,” said Brent Wilkes, CEO of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). "The EPA will not listen to us under its current leadership. They will not listen to the science, and they especially won’t listen to the victims who are suffering from exposure. So today, we are here with people who will listen.
"This bill tells the chemical industry that our children's health and safety are not for sale," said Rhea Suh, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Families shouldn't have to worry the fruits and veggies they feed their kids could do them harm."
"The will to advocate for children’s health seems to be in short supply in the Senate these days However, Senator Udall, as one would expect, continues his steadfast advocacy on behalf of the well-being of our kids,” said Scott Faber, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at EWG. “Chlorpyrifos has been shown to cause brain and nervous system damage in children, and therefore, should not be allowed to be sprayed near schools, homes or on the fruits and vegetables kids eat. Period. Senator Udall’s proposal is the definition of common-sense legislation put forth by a serious and dedicated legislator who puts public health first.”
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