Trump Policy Stands to Help Poison Poor Children of Color
April 6, 2017 – A recent decision by the Environmental Protection Agency will likely expose more African-Americans in rural farming areas to a dangerous, brain-damaging toxin known as chlorpyrifos.
“Children, in general, are more susceptible to pesticide poisoning for physiological reasons, and this particular pesticide has an established neurotoxic effect,” said Devika Ghai, international campaign coordinator at environmental justice nonprofit Pesticide Action Network. “We actually have been warning about the toxicity of this chemical for about 20 years. It has already been banned for household use for years now. If it is banned in (urban) areas but not in rural, farming areas then that is a signaling of whose lives are more important.”
Ghai said her organization filed a lawsuit with the EPA, asking the agency to re-examine chlorpyrifo’s use in farming communities, and that EPA scientists had actually conceded the threat that the chemical posed to youth. As recently as last November, the EPA revealed the pesticide can cause lowered intelligence and attention deficits, as well as motor and memory problems in children. The report claims that one- and two-year-old children risk exposure from food that is 14,000 percent above a “safe” level.
However, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt chose to align with the profit-minded, agribusinesses machine and against children by refusing to ban the insecticide. Pruitt signed his order late last month, allowing farmers and giant agribusinesses to continue using chlorpyrifos, also known as Lorsban insecticide, on food crops, over the cries of dissent from EPA scientists.
Numerous studies outside the EPA also connect the poison to neurodevelopmental problems, including ADHD and learning difficulties. Former MSU students blew past the “IF” question on chlorpyrifos toxicity as far back as 1997 and delved into the “HOW” of why it is so toxic. (Authors concluded that juvenile rats detox at lower levels than adults, making them particularly susceptible.)
Studies on chlorpyrifos insecticide—and the whole organophosphorus family of pesticides to which it belongs—offer a near unanimous flood of warnings against living near farmland using the insecticide. One in-depth examination of the environmental causes of autism and developmental delay determined that the application of agricultural pesticides, in general, greatly increases the risk of autism in unborn children. The study also found that women who lived less than a mile from fields where chlorpyrifos insecticides were used while in their second trimesters of pregnancy tripled their chances of giving birth to an autistic child.
This is particularly bad news for the majority-African-American occupants of the highly-cultivated territory of the Mississippi Delta. A 2010 report by health-awareness non-profit, Beyond Pesticides, reveals that low-income populations and people of color experience disproportionately-high health problems, morbidity, and mortality due to toxic exposure. In fact, African Americans are four to six times more likely than whites to die from health complications, such as asthma, according to the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. Knowing this, the organization argues that a disproportionate impact will most likely be felt in the African-American community every time U.S. policies allow regulators to permit the use of pesticides with known hazardous effects.
Children living in poverty are the hardest hit from pesticide exposure due to the numerous hallmarks of living without money or resources. These hallmarks include poor nutrition, weakened respiratory and immune systems, inadequate health care, and lack of information on pesticide hazards and non-toxic alternatives to pesticides, as well as a higher chance of living near contaminated air and water from chemical manufacturing plants and waste. The fact that the children of the Mississippi Delta are some of the most impoverished youth in the nation fits snugly into the nation’s longstanding trend of poisoning minorities first.
The Pruitt decision comes as little surprise, considering the EPA head’s career as a devoted industry lapdog. While serving as the attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt often sided with giant oil and gas companies that caused rampant earthquakes in his own state. Oil companies, seeking to dispose of dangerous fracking fluid used to recover deep oil and gas deposits, injected the caustic fracking runoff into old oil wells. Their relentless flooding of Oklahoma oil wells lubricated a dangerous Oklahoma fault line and reactivated it, triggering incessant and destructive quakes throughout the state.
Pruitt never tried to sue the offending oil companies at any point during his career as attorney general of that beleaguered state. In fact, the release of Pruitt’s emails earlier this year reinforced his obscenely-close ties with the same oil, gas, and utility companies that he was charged with policing. Prior to his appointment as head of the EPA, critics raged that Pruitt had sued his own EPA a total of 14 times in his unending effort to challenge sensible environmental regulation. He even went so far as to reprint anti-environmental, corporate opinions under his own AG letterhead and forward them to the EPA, as if they were his own.
The EPA head also made clear his low regard for almost-universally accepted climate-change science, claiming recently he does not believe carbon dioxide is primarily to blame for global warming. His decision could impact millions of poor and minority populations living along the planet’s coastlines as sea levels continue to rise with the melting of polar ice.
Pruitt’s careless environmental policy reflects the attitude of the president who appointed him, however. Just recently, President Donald Trump similarly ignored decades of scientific research supporting human-induced climate change by rolling back reams of carbon-reducing federal policy.
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