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EPA Restricts Pesticide Linked to Learning Disabilities in Children
On July 18 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new restrictions on the pesticide chlorpyrifos, commonly sprayed on corn, oranges, grapes, almonds and other crops and linked to learning disabilities in children. The move comes in response to legal action by Pesticide Action Network (PAN) and other environmental organizations and as rural communities demand greater protections from the brain toxin.
“EPA is taking a big step in protecting children from the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos by significantly reducing the amount applied to fields and orchards,” said Emily Marquez, PhD, staff scientist at Pesticide Action Network. “The agency should go even further to protect children wherever they live, learn and play and pull the pesticide off the market.”
Recent studies show that exposure to chlorpyrifos in the womb and in early childhood, during critical stages of development can lead to lasting effects on the brain. Researchers now say that as many as 25 percent of all U.S. children may have IQs several points lower due to eating foods treated with chlorpyrifos and similar pesticides.
EPA cancelled the residential uses of chlorpyrifos in 2002 because of the hazards posed to children, yet agricultural uses are still permitted. However, children living in farm communities remain especially high risk. In addition to chlorpyrifos exposure from food, they may also be breathing airborne chlorpyrifos drift from nearby farms in their classrooms and homes. Farmworker children are exposed even more, as parents can carry pesticide residues home at the end of the day on work clothing and shoes.
At age 17, Luis Medellin began using PAN’s Drift Catcher to document chemical drift from neighboring citrus groves, finding that a majority of samples contained chlorpyrifos. Community members tested during the chlorpyrifos application season had high levels of the chemical in their bodies—much higher than the background levels found in the general population from eating food containing chlorpyrifos residues. The evidence from his small town of Lindsay, Calif., as well as communities in Washington, fueled a legal petition to remove chlorpyrifos from the market that was filed by PAN and Natural Resources Defense Council, and later, litigation by those groups with the support of Earthjustice.
“Chlorpyrifos drift poses serious threats to communities like mine,” said Luis Medellin, speaking on behalf of the community organization El Quinto Sol de America. Luis grew up in homes next to farms that used chlorpyrifos in California’s San Joaquin Valley and awoke to pesticide spraying on July 18. “While today’s announcement is good news, the realities on the ground show that this pesticide can’t be used without hurting people who live nearby.”
EPA’s new protections are focused on protecting people from exposure to spray drift and include:
- Reduced pesticide applications—the agency negotiated an agreement with industry to reduce the maximum amount of pesticide that can be applied per acre for aerial applications from 6 pounds/acre to 2 pounds/acre.
- Larger buffer zones—the new protections include no-spray buffer zones near sensitive sites, from 10 feet up to a maximum of 100 feet.
- Better protection areas for the most sensitive—the new protection areas include places children live and play, whether they are present at the time of application or not. However, the new protections do not include any consideration of farmworkers working in adjacent fields.
Volatilization drift—the evaporation of the pesticide after application—is also part of the problem for chlorpyrifos, but the new restrictions are not intended to protect people from volatilization drift. EPA noted their intention to address volatilization drift when the chlorpyrifos risk assessment is finalized in 2014.
- A list of foods with chlorpyrifos commonly found on them is available here.
- The main documents about EPA’s decisions on chlorpyrifos can be found here and here
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Cabin fever is often associated with being cooped up on a rainy weekend or stuck inside during a winter blizzard.
In reality, though, it can actually occur anytime you feel isolated or disconnected from the outside world.
What is cabin fever?<p>In popular expressions, cabin fever is used to explain feeling bored or listless because you've been stuck inside for a few hours or days. But that's not the reality of the symptoms.</p><p>Instead, cabin fever is a series of negative emotions and distressing sensations people may face if they're isolated or feeling cut off from the world.</p><p>These feelings of isolation and loneliness are more likely in times of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/yes-covid-19-cases-are-rising-why-you-still-need-to-practice-social-distancing" target="_blank">social distancing</a>, self-quarantining during a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-a-pandemic" target="_blank">pandemic</a>, or sheltering in place because of severe weather.</p><p>Indeed, cabin fever can lead to a series of symptoms that can be difficult to manage without proper coping techniques.</p><p>Cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological disorder, but that doesn't mean the feelings aren't real. The distress is very real. It can make fulfilling the requirements of everyday life difficult.</p>
What are the symptoms?<p>Symptoms of cabin fever go far beyond feeling bored or "stuck" at home. They're rooted in an intense feeling of isolation and may include:</p><ul><li>restlessness</li><li>decreased motivation</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irritability" target="_blank">irritability</a></li><li>hopelessness</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/unable-to-concentrate" target="_blank">difficulty concentrating</a></li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irregular-sleep-wake-syndrome" target="_blank">irregular sleep patterns</a>, including sleepiness or sleeplessness</li><li>difficulty waking up</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/lethargy" target="_blank">lethargy</a></li><li>distrust of people around you</li><li>lack of patience</li><li>persistent <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/depression-vs-sadness" target="_blank">sadness or depression<br></a></li></ul>
What can help you cope with cabin fever?<p>Because cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological condition, there's no standard "treatment." However, mental health professionals do recognize that the symptoms are very real.</p><p>The coping mechanism that works best for you will have a lot to do with your personal situation and the reason you're secluded in the first place.</p><p>Finding meaningful ways to engage your brain and occupy your time can help alleviate the distress and irritability that cabin fever brings.</p><p>The following ideas are a good place to start.</p>
When to get help<p>Cabin fever is often a fleeting feeling. You may feel irritable or frustrated for a few hours, but having a virtual chat with a friend or finding a task to distract your mind may help erase the frustrations you felt earlier.</p><p>Sometimes, however, the feelings may grow stronger, and no coping mechanisms may be able to successfully help you eliminate your feelings of isolation, sadness, or depression.</p><p>What's more, if your time indoors is prolonged by outside forces, like weather or extended shelter-in-place orders from your local government, feelings of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety" target="_blank">anxiety</a> and fear are valid.</p><p>In fact, anxiety may be at the root of some cabin fever symptoms. This may make symptoms worse.</p><p>If you feel that your symptoms are getting worse, consider reaching out to a mental health professional who can help you understand what you're experiencing. Together, you can identify ways to overcome the feelings and anxiety.</p><p>Of course, if you're in isolation or practicing social distancing, you'll need to look for alternative means for seeing a mental health expert.</p><p>Telehealth options may be available to connect you with your therapist if you already have one. If you don't, reach out to your doctor for recommendations about mental health specialists who can connect with you online.</p><p>If you don't want to talk to a therapist, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/top-iphone-android-apps" target="_blank">smartphone apps for depression</a> may provide a complementary option for addressing your cabin fever symptoms.</p>
The bottom line<p>Isolation isn't a natural state for many people. We are, for the most part, social animals. We enjoy each other's company. That's what can make staying at home for extended periods of time difficult.</p><p>However, whether you're sheltering at home to avoid dangerous weather conditions or heeding the guidelines to help minimize the spread of a disease, staying at home is often an important thing we must do for ourselves and our communities.</p><p>If and when it's necessary, finding ways to engage your brain and occupy your time may help bat back cabin fever and the feelings of isolation and restlessness that often accompany it.</p>
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