News Feature | May 19, 2017

EPA Goes Easy On Pesticide With Potential To Contaminate

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome

farm reg new

The Trump administration is showing little concern about pesticide contamination despite mounting evidence that an unregulated bug repellant poses a threat to drinking water.

The pesticide in question is chlorpyrifos. Exposure to humans occurs through water contamination, food contamination, and spray drift. Research has found that the pesticide, which is still used on crops, may hinder childhood development, according to The New York Times.

Chlorpyrifos has the potential to contaminate drinking water. “In 2015, a U.S. EPA report concluded that infants and children in some parts of the country were being exposed to unsafe amounts of the chemical in drinking water, and to a dangerous byproduct. Agency researchers could not determine any level of exposure that was safe,” the report said.

EPA research describes the threat this contaminant poses in drinking water: “The primary source of risk comes from chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos oxon in drinking water in highly vulnerable watersheds (generally small watersheds where the land is agricultural and could be treated with chlorpyrifos (i.e., heavily cropped areas)).”

The EPA has signaled that it is backing off of its efforts to regulate chlorpyrifos.

In March, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt “denied a 10-year-old petition brought by environmental groups seeking a complete ban on chlorpyrifos. In a statement accompanying his decision, Mr. Pruitt said there ‘continue to be considerable areas of uncertainty’ about the neurodevelopmental effects of early life exposure to the pesticide,” the report said.

Pruitt said the EPA will not make a final determination on the pesticide until 2022.

Meanwhile, chlorpyrifos may be sickening farm workers in California.

“Spraying of Vulcan, a brand name chemical, on an orchard southwest of Bakersfield led to the pesticide drifting to a neighboring property operated by Dan Andrews Farms. A total of 47 farm workers were harvesting cabbage at the time and subsequently complained of a bad odor, nausea and vomiting. One was taken to hospital with four other workers visiting doctors in the following days,” The Guardian reported.

Image credit: "hewitt scene," william garrett © 2015, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: