What is the importance of the pesticides/herbicides that
the Environmental Protection Agency recently ruled on?
Are these chemicals dangerous or not? What is the real
If I had the answer to those last two questions, I’d
be wearing a lab coat and perhaps be contending for a
Nobel Prize. Just like the Alar controversy of the
1980s, chlorpyrifos has been in the crosshairs of the
most recent fight over pesticides, and, while it
survived the latest skirmish, the battle to ban it goes
remember Alar, don’t you? Manufactured by the Uniroyal
Chemical Co., it was a chemical sprayed on fruit to
regulate plant growth so that, for example, apples didn’t
fall off the tree prematurely. Then in 1985, tests on
mice and hamsters suggested it was a carcinogen. Four
years later, the National Resources Defense Council
issued a report that children were being put at risk
from ingesting even legally permissible amounts of
potentially lethal chemicals, including daminozide (Alar).
the NRDC report, "60 Minutes" made Alar a
household word (and worry) in February 1989 when it did
a segment on the product. Experts at the American
Council on Science and Health and others countered that
the tests that produced the Alar scare would have
required children to drink 5,000 gallons of apple juice
— per day. Washington apple growers sued CBS and the
NRDC for $100 million, but the suit was dismissed.
Union now says Alar may cause five cases of cancer in a
million. Today, Alar, which is now banned for use on
food crops, is listed as a "possible"
carcinogen by the International Agency for Cancer
Research and a "probable" threat by the EPA,
which usually takes action when a cancer risk exceeds
one in a million.
same controversy has been dogging chlorpyrifos for
years. Introduced by the Dow Chemical Co. in 1965,
chlorpyrifos is better known by such familiar trade
names as Dursban, Lorsban, Hatchet and Warhawk. It works
by attacking an insect’s central nervous system,
preventing its ability to break down the
apparently does its job well. By 2007, chlorpyrifos was
the most commonly used organophosphate pesticide in the
United States and the 14th most common pesticide overall
with roughly 10 million pounds applied to crops across
the nation. According to Dow, it is used in nearly 100
other countries around the world, most notably on
cotton, corn, almonds and fruit trees such as oranges,
bananas and apples. It also has been used on golf
courses and in ant and roach baits.
just as it affects insects, some studies indicate that
chlorpyrifos affects humans, especially infants and
children, whose bodies cannot detoxify the chemical as
readily. In multiple human studies, exposure during
pregnancy or in childhood has been linked with lower
birth weight, slower motor development and attention
problems. In experiments on rats, short-term, low-dose
exposure produced lasting neurological effects.
studies have found that acute exposure or repeated
low-dose exposure can produce health problems in adults.
In one, it was associated with higher risks of lung
cancer among those who apply it frequently compared with
49 other pesticides. In 2011, New Zealand scientists
said it likely caused the death of several tourists in
Thailand who developed myocarditis, but Thai researchers
disputed the claim.
2007, the Pesticide Action Network North America and the
Natural Resources Defense Council petitioned to have it
banned in the United States, and on Aug. 10, 2015, the
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the EPA to
respond to the petition. On March 29, the EPA did so
when Administrator Scott Pruitt signed an order denying
need to provide regulatory certainty to the thousands of
American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos, while still
protecting human health and the environment,"
Pruitt said in a statement. "By reversing the
previous administration’s steps to ban one of the most
widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to
using sound science in decision-making, rather than
is a welcome decision grounded in evidence and
science," Sheryl Kunickis, director of the Office
of Pest Management Policy at the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, agreed. "This frees American farmers
from significant trade disruptions that could have been
caused by an unnecessary, unilateral revocation of
chlorpyrifos tolerances in the United States. It is also
great news for consumers, who will continue to have
access to a full range of both domestic and imported
fruits and vegetables."
opposing the pesticide’s use disagree, pointing to the
fact that Europe, Singapore and South Africa have banned
its use in homes and commercial buildings.
evidence of harm comes from epidemiologic studies,
laboratory toxicologic studies, and mechanistic studies
demonstrating that chlorpyrifos is a powerful
developmental neurotoxicant," they wrote in a
letter to the EPA. " Exposures to even very low
doses of chlorpyrifos during critical windows of
vulnerability during the nine months of pregnancy has
been … associated with lower birth weight and adverse
neurodevelopmental effects to children including
diminished cognitive ability (lowered IQ), poorer
working memory, and delays in motor development."
than being branded an industry lackey or radical
tree-hugger, I’ll let you decide.