Group of Senators Push for Ban of the Toxic Pesticide Chlorpyrifos

A group of senators introduced a bill on July 25, 2017 in the hopes of banning Chlorpyrifos, a toxic pesticide implicated in the poisonings of farm workers. Introduced by Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, the bill challenges President Trump’s efforts to loosen environmental regulations. [1]

Chlorpyrifos Ban and Recent History

  • In April 2017, the EPA said it would not ban chlorpyrifos, despite the agency’s own chemical safety experts, who had recommended under the Obama administration that the pesticide be permanently banned from agricultural use nationwide, due to the dangers it poses to farm workers and young children.
  • In late 2016, the EPA concluded that chlorpyrifos exposure was causing potentially significant health issues, including learning and memory declines, especially among farm workers and young children.
  • On July 18, 2017, a federal appeals court denied a petition by green groups to force the EPA to ban chlorpyrifos. [2]

Several manufacturers produce chlorpyrifos, including Dow Chemical. It is listed as a neurotoxin by the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

EPA: 97% of Endangered Species Threatened By 2 Pesticides, Including Chlorpyrifos

According to Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician who is dean for global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, the toxicity of chlorpyrifos was proven “to damage the brains of children, especially those of fetuses in the womb” in 3 long-term, independently-funded studies “beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

Toxic residues of chlorpyrifos are regularly found on fruits and vegetables, including under the peels of oranges and other citrus fruits, as well as in the flesh of melons under the rind. Simply washing a piece of fruit before eating it is not enough to remove the pesticide. [2]

The EPA’s own scientists concluded that the amount of chlorpyrifos ingested by young children could exceed safety levels by 140 times.

The agency’s failure to ban chlorpyrifos could be construed as criminal, considering it is illegal under federal law to apply pesticides to food crops if the EPA can’t prove that they can be used safely.

Under the bill, the EPA would be required to conduct a broad review of the uses of chlorpyrifos to determine which groups are most vulnerable to the toxin. Should that review conclude that people are being exposed to harmful levels of the pesticide, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt would be forced to take “appropriate regulatory action” within 3 months by either suspending or revoking chlorpyrifos’ registration, or lowering the amount that can be legally applied. [1]

Udall stated:

“Congress must act because Administrator Pruitt has shown that he won’t.”

Senators Ben Cardin of Maryland, Kamala Harris of California, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Richard Durbin of Illinois and Ed Markey of Massachusetts are co-sponsoring the piece of legislation. [1]


[1] Reuters

[2] National Resources Defense Council

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California Will Get Swamped by Millions of Mosquito-Killing … Mosquitoes

Researchers at the Google-linked science company Verily are in the process of releasing 20 million sterile mosquitoes into the Fresno County, California, area in an attempt to actually stop the disease-carrying menaces from breeding. [1]

The effort is dubbed the “Debug Fresno” project, the goal of which is to greatly reduce the number of invasive Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the area. The Zika-carrying insects first arrived in California’s Central Valley in 2013. The mosquitoes also have the ability to spread dengue fever and chikungunya viruses. Officials say the bugs adapted rapidly to the area’s residential neighborhoods. [2]

Steve Mulligan, district manager for the region’s Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District (CMAD), explained:

“It’s a terrible nuisance, a terrible biting nuisance. It’s changed the way people can enjoy their backyard and it’s a threat for disease transmission. So we’re looking for new ways to eliminate it.”

The Bloodline Stops There

The tens of millions of mosquitoes are being infected with Wolbachia bacteria and raised inside a laboratory. Wolbachia makes male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes sterile. Then, once the insects have matured, they will be released to mate with credulous female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

Read: Wolbachia Mosquitoes Released in Australian Towns

The altered males don’t bite, but, obviously, you wouldn’t know that as you swat at them at your family barbecue.

If the naive females lay eggs, it won’t matter; they will never hatch.

Ultimately, the scientists’ plan is to eliminate the mosquitoes, generation by generation.

Source: Science News

Mulligan said:

“It’s kind of contrary to what a person would think. ‘What, you’re doing what? You’re releasing mosquitoes to control mosquitoes?’ We are releasing male mosquitoes because male mosquitoes do not bite and cannot transmit disease.”

Verily, a subsidiary of Alphabet (formerly Google Life Sciences), estimates they will release 1 million mosquitoes a week in Fresno County. That’s upwards of 25 times the numbers in 2016. This is made possible because scientists have developed ways to breed the mosquitoes, and separate the sexes on a larger scale.

Verily spokeswoman Kathleen Parkes explained:

“Automated sex-sorting is a key advancement for this research. Traditionally, mosquito sex-sorting is a very labor-intensive process. Verily has developed a system that uses computer vision algorithms to identify the sex of the mosquitoes and only let the males through.”

Future field studies will let scientists know whether or not Verily’s plan lowered the number of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in Fresno County.

If all goes as planned, those 20 million mosquitoes will get released between mid-July and the fall of 2017.

Theoretically, if the program is successful, it could be used to stomp out all mosquito-borne illnesses on Earth. [2]

Linus Upson, a senior engineer at Verily, said:

“If we really want to help people globally, we need to be able to produce a lot of mosquitoes, distribute them to where they need to be, and measure populations at very-very low costs.” [3]

Verily blog wrote:

“To measure our outcomes, we will compare the adult population density and egg hatching of Aedes aegypti in these targeted areas to two control neighborhoods. Over time, we hope to see a steep decline in the presence of Aedes aegypti in these communities.”

The Other Side of the Card

Wow, can you imagine eradicating malaria and yellow fever? It would certainly be a medical and technological breakthrough that redefines life for millions of people around the world who would have died without the technology.

To read about it, it seems quite simple and sure-fire.

But That’s Not Necessarily the Case

A July 2014 study by researchers at Penn State University found that:

“Mosquitoes infected with the bacteria Wolbachia are more likely to become infected with West Nile virus and more likely to transmit the virus to humans, according to a team of researchers.”

The scientists say “that caution should be used when releasing Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes into nature to control vector-borne diseases of humans.”

In a March 2016 letter published in Science magazine, researchers point out that few experiments with Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes have looked at “the probability of Wolbachia strains being transferred to other insects and the potential environmental and economic impacts of this host shift.”

The scientists explain that in a brief evolutionary period, “Wolbachia strains are capable of transferring horizontally among distantly related arthropods.”

Additionally, according to the researchers, parasites are able to carry Wolbachia strains to other species.

The question is: Which is riskier – mosquito-borne disease, or a potential mishap in trying to eradicate the sources of those diseases?


[1] Mic

[2] The Washington Post

[3] Newsmax

Science News

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