The Environmental Protection Agency has been rolling back regulations and resetting America’s climate policy since the start of the Trump administration, affecting clean water in service of coal production and hiring Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier and fossil fuel industry champion, to head the agency, to name two things.
In one of the first major decisions made by Pruitt’s EPA, the agency reversed its stance on a pesticide, approving its use instead of banning it outright. Chlorpyrifos, the bug killer in question, is quite effective at decimating insect populations and protecting crops, however it’s also been shown to cause brain damage in children, even in low doses. Chlorpyrifos, which is derived from a nerve gas developed by Nazi Germany, is also a big money-maker for Dow Chemical, who sells about 5 million pounds of the substance a year. Weirdly, the EPA decided not to ban it after Dow Chemical donated $1 million to President Trump’s inaugural.
The non-ban is already showing its effects: earlier this month, over 50 farm workers near Bakersfield, California were exposed to chlorpyrifos and became suddenly ill after a wind shift caused the substance to drift over workers near a field that had been sprayed the night before. Via Mother Jones:
According to the National Pesticide Information Center, exposure to the chemical through inhalation can cause initial symptoms like “tearing of the eyes, runny nose, increased saliva and sweat production, nausea, dizziness and headache,” followed by possible “muscle twitching, weakness or tremors, lack of coordination, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and pupil constriction with blurred or darkened vision.”
One worker was hospitalized and over a dozen showed symptoms. However, many left before receiving medical attention and were urged by the Kern County Public Health department to seek treatment if symptoms cropped up.
After approving the chemical, the EPA cannot ban chlorpyrifos until 2022 at the earliest.