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A Bunch of People Got Sick from a Pesticide Trump’s EPA Didn't Ban

The agency backed down from banning chlorpyrifos just five weeks ago.

Susan Rinkunas

A worker pours pesticide into a machine to be sprayed on almond trees. Bloomberg/Getty Images

In late March, the Environmental Protection Agency went against its own advice and decided not to ban a pesticide called chlorpyrifos, which has been linked to learning disabilities in children and health problems among farm workers. Ten days ago, more than a dozen workers in California got sick from it.

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Chlorpyrifos, made by Dow Chemical, has been banned for residential use for about 15 years but is used at about 40,000 farms on about 50 different kinds of crops including citrus fruits, apples, almonds, corn, and soybeans. The EPA under the Obama administration had recommended that chlorpyrifos be banned, but current EPA chief (and longtime EPA critic) Scott Pruitt, decided to let farms keep using it in one of his first formal actions.

More than dozen workers on a cabbage farm south of Bakersfield, California, got sick on May 5th: 12 people reported nausea and vomiting, one person fainted, and one worker was taken to the hospital. The farm supervisor told a local news station that a nearby citrus orchard was sprayed with a pesticide called Vulcan the night before; chlorpyrifos is the active ingredient in Vulcan. The Kern County Department of Agriculture and Measurement Standards is testing the chemicals involved to determine if chlorpyrifos was indeed present, but results aren't in yet. At least 50 workers were exposed but half of them left before medical personnel arrived.

Mother Jones notes that Dow Chemical has multiple links to the Trump administration: The company donated $1 million to Trump's inaugural committee in December 2016 and Trump named its CEO Andrew Liveris to lead the American Manufacturing Council.

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