California Bans Pesticide Linked to Brain Damage in Children
A popular agricultural pesticide that has been linked to brain damage in children will no longer be sold in California starting in February, state officials announced on Wednesday, as the AP reported.
Under the agreement, farmers will still be allowed to use the pesticide chlorpyrifos, but will have to stop at the end of 2020.
If the manufacturer of chlorpyrifos had decided to embark on a protracted legal battle rather than voluntarily withdraw their product, the timeline for removing the pesticide would have been much longer, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"For years, environmental justice advocates have fought to get the harmful pesticide chlorpyrifos out of our communities," said Governor Gavin Newsom in a statement released by the California EPA. "Thanks to their tenacity and the work of countless others, this will now occur faster than originally envisioned. This is a big win for children, workers and public health in California."
The pesticide is widely used as farmers rely on it for some of the nation's most popular crops, including alfalfa, almonds, citrus, cotton, grapes and walnuts, according to the AP.
California environmental regulators have had a ban on chlorpyrifos in their sights for years. They had designated the pesticide "a toxic air contaminant" that is harmful when it enters the respiratory track or makes skin contact. That designation allowed yesterday's agreement to include a ban on aerial spraying of chlorpyrfios, as NPR reported.
The federal government also sought to stop the use of chlorpyrifos under the Obama administration. The Obama administration proposed banning the pesticide in 2015 when the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that chlorpyrifos could pose harm to consumers. However, in early 2017, the EPA, under the Trump administration, reversed course and said there was too much uncertainty about it, as NPR reported.
Since the federal government walked back its plan to ban the pesticide, California moved to implement its own regulation. Hawaii and New York are already phasing in their own bans, according to the AP.
"The swift end to the sale of chlorpyrifos protects vulnerable communities by taking a harmful pesticide off the market," said California Secretary for Environmental Protection Jared Blumenfeld in a statement. "This agreement avoids a protracted legal process while providing a clear timeline for California farmers as we look toward developing alternative pest management practices."
The state did agree to kick in $5.6 million to help pesticide manufacturers develop a safer alternative.
"But just so you're aware, that's what agriculture does every day, we're always looking for new products, safer products that are effective," said Casey Creamer, president of the California Citrus Association, which represents about 5,000 growers, as the AP reported.
Creamer added that the he and his organization believe the risks are far less than what the state presented.
"We really thought the exposure assessments and risks were just inflated and it wasn't a true characterization of the protections that were already in place," he said according to the AP.
Corteva AgriScience, formerly known as Dow AgroSciences, is the largest manufacturer of the chemical. After mounting restrictions on applications of chlorpyrifos products over the last few years, the state chose to revoke product registrations this year, which is effectively a ban. Companies that make the pesticide, led by Dow, had asked for a hearing, which delayed implementation of the ban, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Corteva said in a statement that it reached the agreement "in the best interests of the affected growers," as the AP reported.
"Through recent actions, the state of California has improvised and implemented several uniquely challenging regulatory requirements for chlorpyrifos. These new, novel requirements have made it virtually impossible for growers to use this important tool in their state," Corteva said in its statement.
As for the federal government, EPA chief Andrew Wheeler had extended the safety review of chlorpyrifos until 2022, but complaints about its process have forced the agency to expedite the review process and to have a decision by next October, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"...as long as the Trump administration is in charge, this EPA will favor the interests of the chemical lobby over children's safety." In my 2nd @EcoWatch post today, #Trump's #EPA decided not to ban toxic #pesticide #chlorpyrifos: https://t.co/91WkwqaT0I— Olivia Rosane (@orosane) July 19, 2019
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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