This op-ed originally ran in the Los Angeles Times.
Miners carried canaries into coal mines; if the canary died, it was an early warning of the presence of toxic gases that could also asphyxiate humans or explode. The Trump administration has decided to use children and farmworkers as 21st century canaries, continuing their exposure to a pesticide named chlorpyrifos that has been linked to serious health concerns.
The toxicity of this commonly used pesticide was demonstrated in early May when chlorpyrifos sprayed on a Bakersfield orchard drifted into a neighboring cabbage field, sickening a dozen farmworkers. One was hospitalized.
In November 2016, EPA scientists reported that residues of chlorpyrifos on food crops exceed the federal safety standards for pesticides. Their analysis also found that in areas of extensive but permitted chlorpyrifos use, exposure to the chemical from drinking water exceeds levels safe for human consumption. Workers “who mix, load and apply chlorpyrifos pesticide products,” according to the analysis, face particular risks.
Chlorpyrifos is sprayed on turf and on agricultural fields, sometimes close to schools or residential areas. It is used on golf courses, playgrounds, row crops and fruit trees. Those working or playing in these ...