In the latest news from the Environmental Protection Agency, it appears that a two-year long study providing compelling evidence against the use of a well- known pesticide is not reason enough to ban it. Are we surprised? No. Are we frustrated with this decision? Yes.
In a natural experiment, researchers from Columbia University merely observed the effects of pollutants, including the pesticide in question, on pregnant women from lower income areas. The study yielded interesting results.
When the pesticide Chlorpyrifos was taken off shelves two years into the Columbia study, pesticide levels dropped significantly in the cord blood of many newborns recently inducted into the study. Researchers found that babies with higher levels of the pesticide in their blood were more susceptible to lower birth weight and persistent developmental delays. By age 7, the study concluded that these children had all around lower IQ scores.
While the study did not prove causation, it showed a definite correlation between exposure to higher doses of the pesticide and negative effects on childhood development.
The Columbia University study was only one of several studies showing the danger of exposure to Chlorpyrifos. Previously, evidence from these studies moved scientist at the EPA to conclude that the pesticide should be banned totally. However, Chlorpyrifos is still prevalent in agriculture, spraying its way onto our strawberries, apples, and oranges.
Under Trump and Scott Pruitt, the new chief of the EPA, it is unlikely that the threat of Chlorpyrifos will be taken seriously. Pruitt has already denied a petition to ban Chlorpyrifos altogether saying, “there continue to be considerable areas of uncertainty” surrounding the effects of exposure to Chlorpyrifos.
The request of environmentalists and research scientists, the costs of children’s health and the contradiction of former scientific analyses of the EPA are not enough for Pruitt to budge.
It is unclear what Pruitt and Trump stand to gain from this ignorant push against science, but there is no denying the danger of this pesticide is clear and present.
Photo by l.hillesheim / Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0
Caitlin Phillips is a freelance writer based out of Athens, Georgia.