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by Maureen Swanson, Healthy Children Project Director

In late July, LDA leaders traveled to Washington, DC, along with colleagues from health, labor and community justice groups, to advocate for a ban on the nerve-damaging pesticide “chlorpyrifos” – widely used on fruit and vegetable crops across the country.  Scientific studies overwhelmingly find that prenatal and early childhood exposures to chlorpyrifos, even at low levels, disrupt children’s brain development and can result in loss of IQ, problems with behavior and attention, and learning and developmental disabilities.

LDA was invited to participate in Senator Tom Udall’s press conference, held July 25 on the Capitol Hill lawn, to introduce his bill to ban chlorpyrifos from use on food crops. Maureen Swanson, LDA’s Healthy Children Project Director, spoke at the press conference, stating, “Chlorpyrifos changes babies’ brains. This terrible pesticide is in our drinking water at levels the EPA says are unsafe; it drifts from farm fields onto children’s homes and schools and playgrounds; it’s on the fruits and vegetables we feed our families.”

LDA remarks start at the 20:00 minute mark: https://www.facebook.com/senatortomudall/videos/10155369051702870

Swanson was joined by Martha Moriarty, LDA-MN, Analisa Smith, LDA-SC, Donna Brigham, LDA-TN, Christine Roman, LDA-MI, and Sylvia Youngblood, LDA-CA and a board member. The LDA delegation participated in training on July 24 conducted by the law organization Earthjustice, followed on July 25 by the press conference and meetings with Senate offices. Youngblood noted that many Senators and their staffers were not aware of the connection between the pesticide exposures and learning disabilities, ADHD and children’s education outcomes until LDA advocates spoke with them.

Sen. Udall’s bill, the “Protect Children, Farmers & Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act,” opens with a “findings” section that references Project TENDR (Targeting Environmental Neuro-Development Risks), which LDA’s Swanson co-directs.  The TENDR consensus statement, published in July 2016, identifies the “organophosphate” class of pesticides, which includes chlorpyrifos, as chemicals that are increasing children’s risks for brain-based disorders, such as learning disabilities, IQ deficits, ADHD and autism.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly reviewed the scientific evidence on chlorpyrifos, each time concluding that even when applied correctly in accordance with label instructions, the pesticide is harmful to farmworkers, pregnant women and children. In 2014 and 2015, EPA found that the pesticide is present in drinking water at unsafe levels. In 2016, EPA found the pesticide residues are at unsafe levels on fruits and vegetables that children like to eat, such as grapes, apples and oranges. Chlorpyrifos was banned for residential use as an insecticide in 2000 because of multiple studies showing lasting harm to children’s brain development and function.

In March 2017, EPA Administrator Pruitt rejected EPA scientists’ conclusions and denied his own agency’s proposal to ban chlorpyrifos from use on food crops, saying he would reconsider in 2022.  LDA is also a petitioner in an administrative appeal filed by Earthjustice that asks Pruitt to revisit that decision immediately.

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