California Defied Trump and Banned a Pesticide Linked to Brain Damage in Children

Environmental activists have been pushing to stop chlorpyrifos use in the state for years.

Education Images/UIG/Getty

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This story was originally published by the Guardian and is shared here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. 

California is banning a widely used pesticide that has been linked to brain damage in children, a major victory for public health advocates who have long fought to outlaw the toxic chemical in the agricultural industry.

The state ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide used on almonds, citrus, cotton, grapes, walnuts and other crops, follows years of research finding the chemical causes serious health effects in children, including impaired brain and neurological development. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had moved to ban the chemical under Barack Obama, but the Trump administration reversed that effort, rejecting the scientific conclusions of its own government experts.

“Countless people have suffered as a result of this chemical,” the California EPA secretary, Jared Blumenfeld, said in an interview on Wednesday. “A lot of people live and work and go to school right next to fields that are being sprayed with chlorpyrifos…It’s an issue of environmental health and justice.”

The move in California, home to a vast agricultural sector responsible for growing a majority of the nation’s fruits and nuts, is the latest example of the state resisting Trump’s conservative agenda and policies. Environmental activists, however, have been pushing to stop chlorpyrifos use in the state for years in the wake of overwhelming evidence of harms caused by exposure.

“This is a very important and pivotal moment,” said Angel Garcia, the chair of the Coalition Advocating for Pesticide Safety, who has worked with families affected by chlorpyrifos. “It sends the message to communities that they are starting to be heard…People will now have a safer future.”

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In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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