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How to Avoid Brain-Damaging Chlorpyrifos in Milk and Produce
By Grace Francese
You may know that many conventional oat cereals contain troubling amounts of the carcinogenic pesticide glyphosate. But another toxic pesticide may be contaminating your kids' breakfast. A new study by the Organic Center shows that almost 60 percent of the non-organic milk sampled contains residues of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide scientists say is unsafe at any concentration.
But by making a few changes to your grocery list, you can avoid the foods most likely to be contaminated with chlorpyrifos. Here's what you need to know about this chemical.
Dangerous but Legal
Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxin — it affects the nervous system and brain, and even small amounts of exposure can cause permanent health damage to babies and children. These health effects can include impairment of children's IQ and harm to the parts of the brain that control language, memory, behavior and emotion. A new study from the University of Southern Denmark also links chlorpyrifos exposure in pregnant women to ADHD in their children.
Because millions of pounds of chlorpyrifos are sprayed on crops every year, most Americans are exposed to it through milk, fruit and other produce. Research by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that babies and developing fetuses are exposed to about five times more chlorpyrifos than what the EPA's standard deems safe, and children consume chlorpyrifos at 11 to 15 times the EPA standard.
Despite this, in 2017 the Trump EPA decided to ignore science in favor of the pesticide industry and cancelled a proposed ban on chlorpyrifos. Now the EPA won't act to keep it out of milk and produce for at least another five years. While the EPA waits to evaluate chlorpyrifos again, roughly 30 million pounds of this chemical will be sprayed on crops, risking the health of children across the U.S.
The EPA's failure to ban chlorpyrifos has even more harmful consequences for farm workers and their families. According to The Guardian newspaper, parents in California's Central Valley, which has some of the heaviest use of chlorpyrifos in the country, fear that drifting clouds of pesticides are causing their children's chronic health problems, including learning problems and attention deficit disorders. They're just not sure about possible solutions.
"We know this is dangerous for the kids," said one mother of five, "but what are we supposed to do?"
Keeping Your Family Safe
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) supports a complete ban on chlorpyrifos, such as a bill currently under consideration in the Senate. EWG is also urging grocery stores to stop supplying foods that could have residues of chlorpyrifos.
In the meantime, switching to organic milk and organic versions of the most potentially contaminated produce is a great way to cut this pesticide out of your diet. Chlorpyrifos residues are most often detected on some imported produce, so skip buying peaches and nectarines imported from Chile, bell peppers and hot peppers imported from Mexico, and domestic and imported cilantro.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Tracy L. Barnett
Sources reviewed this article for accuracy.
For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her define what she stands against: an economy rooted in extraction of resources and exploitation of people and planet. It wasn't until she'd had some distance that the vision of what she stands for came into focus.
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.