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Trump White House Pushes to Let Minors Spray Brain-Damaging Pesticides on Farms

Health + Wellness
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The White House's just-released list of planned environmental and public health rollbacks includes letting high-school-age kids spray brain-damaging pesticides on commercial farms.


The plan would drop the age of workers permitted to spray restricted-use pesticides on crops from 18 to 16. Minors would be allowed to apply dangerous chemicals such as chlorpyrifos, which U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists say can cause brain damage in children even in small doses.

The move, which would take effect next September, was first announced last year by Scott Pruitt, the former head of the EPA, who was forced in July to resign after a string of ethical scandals. In one of the first acts of the Trump administration, Pruitt aborted a scheduled ban of chlorpyrifos just weeks after meeting with the CEO of Dow, chlorpyrifos's manufacturer.

Pruitt's reversal of the ban was recently overturned by a federal appeals court. Under acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, the EPA is fighting the court's order to ban the pesticide.

The minimum age rules were enacted by the Obama administration to protect minors who work on farms. Many of these teenagers are migrant workers who speak little English, making it harder to understand directions on how to apply pesticides safely. The rules were championed by physicians and farmworker-rights advocates, who led a multi-year effort to improve protections for farmworkers.

"Letting younger teenagers handle dangerous pesticides fits perfectly with the Trump administration's war on children's health protection," said EWG President Ken Cook. "There are other farm jobs they could do that don't involve strapping containers of dangerous chemicals on their backs that they will inhale and ingest. But this administration will let unscrupulous farm bosses risk these kids' health."

"Maybe the president should pick up a spray nozzle for a day and see what it's like walking through a plume of pesticide fumes," said Cook. "But the closest he gets to a farm is flying over them on the way to his golf resorts and MAGA rallies."

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Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.

AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.

"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."


The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.

"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.

As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."

"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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