Soon there will be one less poison for parents to worry about. The State of California has moved to ban chlorpyrifos, a widely used pesticide that has been shown to be harmful to a child’s brain development.
Chlorpyrifos has been around since 1965 and is used to destroy soil-borne insects in a wide variety of crops, including corn, soybeans, oranges, and wheat. It works by attacking the insect’s nervous system, and in fact belongs to a class of organophosphates similar to a nerve gas used by the Nazis.
Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the Associated Press that the ban is a “historic victory for California’s agricultural communities and for children nationwide.”
“The science clearly shows that chlorpyrifos is too dangerous to use in our fields,” Rotkin-Ellman said. “Since California uses more chlorpyrifos than any other state, this ban will not only protect kids who live here, but kids who eat the fruits and veggies grown here.”
Chlorpyrifos – The Science
In 2012, the results of a study of 20 children whose mothers had been exposed to chlorpyrifos while pregnant, was published online by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers, including lead author Virginia Rauh, a professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, found traces of chlorpyrifos in umbilical cord blood taken from the test subjects.
Rauh and her cohorts concluded that high exposure to CPF was responsible for structural anomalies in the developing human brain.
“There is recent and growing evidence of persistent motor deficits among children with high early exposure to chlorpyrifos,” Rauh wrote in a 2018 opinion piece published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “Because adult occupational exposures to chlorpyrifos have been clearly linked to Parkinson’s disease, there is good reason to worry that early exposures may set in motion a pathogenic trajectory potentially leading to neurodegenerative disease.”
Dr. Gina Solomon, a professor in the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at UC San Francisco, told Parentology that chlorpyrifos is unusual in that it has been studied extensively in people – not just in lab animals. She said that the effects of chlorpyrifos on human beings looks very similar to the effects of lead exposure.
“Multiple studies in children have documented decreased IQ, decreased verbal comprehension, and difficulties with working memory, processing speed and perceptual reasoning,” Solomon said. “These effects are most closely associated with exposures during the prenatal period.”
But while some are celebrating the move toward a ban, others are disappointed.
DowDuPont, producer of chlorpyrifos, says that the ban will hurt farmers who will be unable to save their crops from insect infestation. Spokesman Gregg Schmidt said in a statement that the company is currently reviewing their options to counter the ban.