Despite a concerning analysis produced by the agency itself, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, recently refused to ban the chemical compound chlorpyrifos. Because of increasing concerns over its dangerous health effects, particularly to children, the Obama administration had sought to outlaw the use of chlorpyrifos as a pesticide on food crops. (1)
Common pesticides have been shown to raise the risk for disease in children, including ADHD, so it’s important to find out the dangers that chlorpyrifos poses along with ways to keep our children safe from this toxic pesticide.
What Is Chlorpyrifos?
Dow Chemical Company introduced chlorpyrifos, also known as Lorsban, as a pesticide in 1965. It was originally developed as organophosphorus gas in Nazi Germany. (2) Commercially, it’s also known as Dursban, Bolton Insecticide, Nufos, Cobalt, Hatchet, Warhawk and used in household products, including Raid Ant & Roach Killer, among others. (3, 4) Also, in some countries, veterinarians prescribe it in flea killer prescriptions. (5)
So, what is chlorpyrifos? It’s a pesticide that’s used in about 100 countries. (6, 7) The Bush administration banned indoor use of this nerve agent. However, it’s still widely used outdoors today on U.S. crops like broccoli, strawberries and citrus. It’s also included in other products, such as products used to treat wood and utility poles. (8)
Dangers of Chlorpyrifos
Make no mistake, chlorpyrifos affects humans and animals, including children and pets, just like it does the pests it’s intended to kill. In fact, chlorpyrifos is known to be dangerous to fish and wildlife, including ducks and aquatic wildlife. Exposure in humans to small amounts of this chemical can cause runny nose, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, and even more seriously, vomiting, abdominal muscle cramps, difficulty breathing and paralysis. (9)
The EPA’s own analysis of this dangerous chemical showed that not only is it dangerous to wildlife and the environment, it can also affect the nervous system and brains of developing fetuses and children. (10, 11)
Yet, Dow AgroSciences, makers of the chemical, tried to kill the study. Dow contributed $1 million dollars to the Trump inaugural committee. Dow also spent $13.6 million on lobbying in 2016; its long-held power in Washington clearly hasn’t ebbed. (12)
Meanwhile, the EPA also recently allowed the continued use of glyphosphate, the main ingredient in Roundup, manufactured by Monsanto. Documents released in a recent lawsuit show that Monsanto may have had an inappropriate role in regulation of glyphosphate. (13)
10 Ways to Avoid Dangerous Pesticides
So what can you do to protect yourself and your loved ones and pets from these dangerous pesticides? It may seem daunting to avoid these chemicals, but there are at least 10 things you can do to cut down your family’s exposure to chlorpyrifos and other chemicals.
1. Eat organic locally grown fruits and vegetables.
Recent reports show that there is unreliable regulation of so-called organic produce coming from China. I advise that you simply avoid organic produce from China. Also, be aware that many organic food and body brands that were once small brands are now owned by mega corporations. This may not necessarily affect the ingredients, but your dollars are not going to independent or local businesses.
Instead, buy local produce and products as much as you can. Not only does this support your local economy, but it also ensures that you have a better idea of the ingredients and that you know where your food comes from.
2. Wash fruits and vegetables with a solution of mild dish soap diluted with water (1 teaspoon dish soap per gallon).
Then rinse with lukewarm water. Or, rinse produce under running water and scrub firm fruits and vegetables like melons and potatoes. Remove the outer layer of leafy vegetables, like cabbage or lettuce. Peel fruits and vegetables when possible. (14)
3. Know which conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are exposed to more pesticides and contain higher levels of pesticide residue.
Check the “dirty dozen” to know which fruits and vegetables to be sure to buy organic to avoid chemical pesticides.
4. Grow your own produce using organic methods.
Growing your own produce allows you to control the environmental conditions, including soil and use of safe pesticides and fertilizers. Follow sustainable landscaping practices to cut down on chemicals, improve health benefits, save money over time and protect the environment.
5. Use non-toxic pest control products.
Rather than chemical pesticides, use detergent pesticides, such as Safers. I highly recommend that you try neem oil, which is a naturally occurring pesticide. Also, try traps with natural chemicals (pheromones) to attract pests.
6. Leave your shoes by the door.
Removing your shoes when you come in the house helps to cut down on pesticides, fertilizers and dirt tracked through your home.
7. Protect children and pets.
If you do use any chemical pesticides or fertilizers, be sure to use these products appropriately. Keep children and pets away from treated lawns. Do not use pesticides indoors. Never spray pesticides on a windy day.
8. Store pesticides carefully.
Do not store pesticides or other chemicals in a soda bottle or other food container. Children may not understand that the contents are dangerous. Make sure to store pesticides out of the reach of children.
9. Choose plants suited to your area and use proper cultivation methods.
Mulching and picking bugs off plants are two examples of pest control methods that don’t require chemicals. But be sure you buy good-quality mulch. Also, there are helpful insects such as ladybugs and praying mantises that eat some pests.
10. Eat only organic, grass-fed beef and other organic, antibiotic-free meats.
What an animal eats moves up the food chain. If an animal has eaten contaminated grass or feed, you are essentially eating those same contaminants when you eat the animal. Eating organic, grass-fed beef helps ensure that you are not exposing yourself or your family to these chemicals. Also, be sure to trim the fat and skin from meat as pesticides and other chemical residue can accumulate in fat.
It may be scary to learn that dangerous chemicals like chlorpyrifos are used on our food crops. It’s frustrating to learn that the EPA has decided to extend use of this pesticide, knowing that it is an environmental hazard, and a major health hazard to children.
But there are steps you can take to limit your family’s exposure to chlorpyrifos and other dangerous chemicals. Here are a few reminders of some simple, quick steps you can take:
- Buy organic when you can, especially local produce.
- Grow your own produce if possible.
- Use non-toxic pesticides (like neem oil) and fertilizers.
- Wash fruits and vegetables.
- Don’t wear your shoes in the house.
- Make sure to store pesticides in appropriate containers out of children’s reach.
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