Farmers Just Got Poisoned By An Insecticide Trump’s EPA Refused to Ban

File this under bad ideas the Trump administration should have seen coming:

Two months ago, Care2 covered the alarming news that the Environmental Protection Agency would ignore existing scientific information and decline to ban chlorpyrifos, a chemical found in some popular insecticides, for use on farms.

Well, it didn’t take long for that decision to have some clear consequences. This past Friday, over 50 farmers in Bakersfield, California found themselves downwind from another farm that sprayed chlorpyrifos. A dozen of these workers fell sick and began to vomit, with one even passing out.

More than half of the farmhands present, understandably, departed the farm to escape the pesticide, but they unfortunately did so before receiving medical attention. The exposure was risky enough for health officials to beg the workers to seek treatment.

“Anybody that was exposed, that was here today, we encourage them to seek medical attention immediately,” said Michelle Corson, a representative for Kern County Public Health. “Don’t wait.”

It’s a shame these farmworkers were put in this position to get sick in the first place. The outgoing Obama administration had recommended approving a long-running petition to remove chlorpyrifos from agricultural use. (It was already banned from household use 17 years ago.) Then, one of EPA Chief Scott Pruitt’s first duties in office was to push off any further deliberation on this issue until 2022.

In March, Pruitt said, “We need to provide regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos… 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 predetermine results.”

It was a complete joke for Pruitt to call ignoring existing studies on chlorpyrifos “sound science.” As the New York Times explains, there are thousands of studies conducted on this chemical, many of which suggest a strong correlation between chemical exposure and negative health effects.

In fact, scientists have even been able to go so far as to show causation – a rare feat in the scientific community – of chlorpyrifos’ effects on animals. Obtaining that same standard on humans is much harder, however, because labs obviously can’t ethically subject humans to these same chemical conditions. (Morally, they arguably shouldn’t have subject animals to these conditions either.)

If all public safety decisions were delayed until the authorities were 100 percent certain about a substance’s harms, almost no chemicals would be banned. It’s only responsible to use the existing scientific information we have to better protect people like these farmers.

Not everyone thinks Pruitt’s decision to overlook the science is a bad one, though. Dow Chemical, a company that produces a top-selling insecticide with chlorpyrifos, recently congratulated the EPA on backing their product. In what I can only imagine is a coincidence, the company gave $1 million to Trump’s inauguration committee shortly before this decision was unexpectedly reversed.

It’s not clear whether Pruitt’s EPA has enough shame to re-reverse its decision on chlorpyrifos in light of so many farmers being poisoned, but perhaps the U.S.’s agricultural hub, California, where this incident occurred, would be willing to pick up the slack.

Sign this petition urging Matthew Rodriguez, the California Secretary for Environmental Protection, to put a ban on the insecticide on a statewide level. California doesn’t need the federal government’s cooperation to look at the research and decide to protect the people of California.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Taylor E
Taylor Eabout a year ago

That chemical must be banned

Telica R
Telica Rabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing

Marie W
Marie W1 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill1 years ago

If it's so dangerous, why didn't the Obama administration ban it?

Margie F
Margie F1 years ago

Surely these farmers can read? I try not to do anything with out reading the bottle.

Teresa A
Teresa Antela1 years ago

Petition signed.

Patricia H
Patricia Harris1 years ago

Bill E, no, we really shouldn't! These fools can't just like, CONTINUE risking not only the health of so many Americans, but also their position! Did you read the article related to the incident after this one was posted? They plan on bringing the EPA to court for violating the law of approving something that was proven time, and time again to be completely harmful to bees and humans alike.

Joe Le Gris
Joe Legris1 years ago

Will keep buying organic, thanks

william Miller
william Miller1 years ago


Carole R
Carole R1 years ago

Very bad news.