A Year After EPA Puts Kids at Risk, Food Companies Can Help

Today marks the one-year anniversary of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s dangerous decision to allow a pesticide highly toxic to kids to continue to be used on fruits and vegetables, including kid favorites like apples and oranges. Chlorpyrifos (pronounced “klor-PEER-a-foss”) poses a serious threat to the developing brains and nervous systems of children and exposure to the chemical early in life (including in-utero), even at very low levels, increases the risk of learning disabilities like IQ loss, developmental delay, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). NRDC petitioned EPA to ban the chemical from use on U.S. food crops a decade ago.

The decision is part of a pattern of reckless behavior from this EPA Administrator, who has demonstrated far greater interest in doing the bidding of chemical industry giants like Dow Chemical— which is the largest manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, and also reportedly donated $1 million for Trump’s inauguration—than protecting pregnant women and children, as the agency's own scientists and staff have urged. This shameless denial of science to do the bidding of harmful industries has got to stop.

Thankfully, other leaders are stepping in where Pruitt and the Trump Administration have woefully failed to protect Americans. In a demonstration of just how serious concern about this chemical runs, last summer Attorneys General from seven states joined forces with public health, farmworker, and environmental advocates—including NRDC—in pushing back against the Pruitt EPA’s decision. Soon after, Congressional leaders in the House and Senate introduced a bill that would ban chlorpyrifos.

Now, one of those leaders, Senator Tom Udall, is calling upon leading food companies to do their part in protecting their customers from exposure. This morning, Senator Udall issued a survey asking top restaurant chains, food service companies, and grocery stores about chlorpyrifos use on the fruits and vegetables on their menus, in their cafeterias, and in their aisles, and about company policies that would protect their customers and farmworkers from exposure to the chemical. In particular, the survey asks about programs to ensure fruits and vegetables included on kids’ meal menus are not grown using chlorpyrifos and other toxic pesticides in the same chemical family.

Bravo Senator Udall! Time and again, we’ve seen the power of large food companies to leverage their enormous purchasing power to encourage better practices on their supplying farms and to make healthier and safer food available to more Americans.

The stakes are simply too high to accept Scott Pruitt’s cynical denial of necessary health and environmental protections. In the face of federal inaction, top food companies have a responsibility to know what pesticides are being used in their supply chains and ensure that the food they serve is not contaminated with dangerous pesticide residues. They also have an enormous opportunity to make change in the marketplace.

We urge them to use their power for good and protect the millions of children they feed all across the country.

About the Authors

Sasha Stashwick

Director, Industrial Policy, Climate & Clean Energy Program

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