Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Agricultural pesticide EPA refused to ban in March is blamed for California workers' sickness

California farm workers (Reuters photo by Mike Blake)
A widely used agricultural pesticide that Environmental Protection Agency EPA head Scott Pruitt refused to ban in March, is being blamed for causing 47 California farmers to become sick on May 5, Oliver Milman reports for The Guardian. Chlorpyrifos, also known as Lorsban, has been used by farmers for more than a half-century to kill pests on crops including broccoli, strawberries and citrus. EPA under the Obama administration proposed a ban in 2015.

Vulcan, a brand name chemical produced by Dow Chemicals, was sprayed on an orchard southwest of Bakersfield, Calif, led to the pesticide drifting to a neighboring property where workers harvesting cabbage "subsequently complained of a bad odor, nausea and vomiting," Milman writes. The primary ingredient in Vulcan is chlorpyrifos. Farm operator Dan Andrews, who said he doesn't use chlorpyrifos, said wind spread the pesticide, leading to sickness, which forced the harvest to be shut down. He said samples of cabbage and clothing have been taken to the state lab for testing.

Chlorpyrifos "has been linked to developmental problems in children such as lower birth weight, reduced IQ and attention disorders," Milman writes. "Large doses of the chemical can cause convulsions and sometimes even death. People are exposed through spray drift, residues on food and water contamination."

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