If President Donald Trump is waging a war on local farmworkers in California, he’s winning. His Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opened up the use of a pesticide called chlorpyrifos to agriculture in March, and then this month when at least 50 laborers were exposed to the pesticide Vulcan, of which chlorpyrifos is an active ingredient, some of them vomited or fainted; one person had to go to the hospital.
Chlorpyrifos was scheduled to be banned under Barack Obama’s administration. But at the end of March, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt denied a petition that called for the ban. Then in Bakersfield, California a Sun Pacific farm sprayed Vulcan on their mandarin trees, and it drifted over to Dan Andrews Farms where workers harvesting cabbage began to feel sick. Grist said Kern County officials have not yet determined if chlorpyrifos was indeed present in the Vulcan sprayed, but both Grist and Kern Golden Empire described chlorpyrifos as an active ingredient in Vulcan. EPA documents from February 2017 also listed chlorpyrifos as the active ingredient in Vulcan.
12 workers reported symptoms of nausea or vomiting. One person fainted and another went to the hospital. Kern Golden Empire reported 12 other laborers didn’t show systems, but that over half the workers had left before medical aid could arrive. Officials described Vulcan as highly toxic, and the Kern County Fire Department and Kern Country Environmental Health and Hazmat came to do a mass contamination of the area. Kern County Public Health Public Relations Officer Michelle Corson called for anyone exposed to seek out medical attention right away.
So why, exactly, was chlorpyrifos not banned? Touting a return to sound science, Pruitt apparently didn’t think there was enough evidence to ban the pesticide, even though, according to Grist, multiple studies link exposure to the harmful chemical with lowered IQ in kids and neurological defects.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s Office of Pest Management Policy director Sheryl Kunickis welcomed Pruitt’s decision. She said it was good news for consumers, meaning they’d have access to fruits and vegetables. Guess she forgot to mention chlorpyrifos could also send people to the hospital.