Have you ever heard of a “risk cup?” Yeah, me neither.
Well, that is until I started doing some research on the pesticide chlorpyrifos.
I’ll tell you a bit more about that “risk cup” and a few more infuriating phrases in a moment, but first a little background.
Pesticide found in 100% of air samples taken
Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate pesticide that until 2001 was one of the most widely used insecticides for residential pest control.
In fact, this stuff was so prevalent that when researchers tested for its presence in the environment and in people it was detected in 100% of personal and indoor air samples and 70% of umbilical-cord blood collected from babies.
The problem is that chlorpyrifos ended up being dangerous to more than just bugs.
It turns out that the pesticide—which is a cholinesterase inhibitor—not only acts on the nervous systems of bugs it can have dire effects on human health as well.
Our nervous systems need the enzyme cholinesterase in order to function properly. The enzyme acts much like a brake in a car, stopping the signals in your nervous system that stimulate your muscles.
Chlorpyrifos linked to convulsions, paralysis & death
Without enough of it, those signals can essentially get stuck in the on position, and like a racing and out-of-control car your muscles can continue to move uncontrollably.
The unchecked signals can cause frantic muscle twitching, paralysis of breathing, convulsions, and, in the most extreme situations, even death.
Bottom line? This stuff can be hazardous to your health! Recognizing that, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally stepped in 2001 and banned chlorpyrifos for residential use.
So, I know what you’re probably thinking: “Wait, do you mean this story has a happy ending?”
I really wish I could answer yes, but, unfortunately, that just isn’t the case. Researchers from the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health reported that they found evidence for a link between prenatal exposure to the insecticide and IQ deficits in children at age 7.
Chlorpyrifos lowers IQ and is linked to ADD
Kids whose mothers were exposed to the chemical before they were even born scored lower on two different IQ tests. And the higher the exposures, the lower the scores. Oh, and did I mention that a 2010 study had already connected organophosphate pesticides with attention deficit disorder?
So the legacy of chlorpyrifos is still very much haunting us today. And to make matters worse (MUCH worse), you’ll notice that I said the EPA banned chlorpyrifos for residential use.
Yes, that’s right; this dangerous pesticide is still actively being used for agricultural purposes and on golf courses.
In fact, 10 million pounds of it are being sprayed on crops every year. And this goes on despite the fact that even the EPA recognizes that a single application of the pesticide poses risks to small mammals, birds, and fish (including endangered Pacific salmon and steelhead).
And, of course, let’s not forget about those unborn babies.
EPA continues to green light this dangerous pesticide
Which brings me to that phrase I mentioned earlier: “risk cup.” The phrase is used on an EPA fact sheet about the pesticide.
According to the EPA, “chlorpyrifos fits into its own ‘risk cup’– its individual, aggregate risks are within acceptable levels.”
Now just what a “risk cup” is, and what acceptable levels are, the EPA fails to mention.
I suppose we’re expected to rest easily since, according to the agency, “Dietary exposures from eating food crops treated with chlorpyrifos are below the level of concern for the entire U.S. population, including infants and children.”
I don’t know about you, but I, for one, certainly AM concerned. And if I happened to be a pregnant woman, I might even be terrified.
As always, I remind you to be wary of nonorganic produce, especially the softer-skinned fruits and vegetables because they are more prone to pesticide contamination. Following is the Environmental Working Group’s 2016 list of the fruits and veggies that are currently the most contaminated by pesticides.
|EWG’s 2016 Dirty Dozen(+ 2) 2016|
|10. Sweet Bell Peppers|
|11. Cherry Tomaoes(imported)|
|13. Hot Peppers|
|14. Kale / Collard Greens|
The EWG updates the list (along with the “Clean 15) every year so when in doubt, check the Group’s website from more information on pesticides in our food supply.
“Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphate Pesticides and IQ in 7-Year Old Children,” Environ Health Perspec t, doi:10.1289/ehp.1003185
“Organophosphate Pesticide Exposure and Attention in Young Mexican-American Children: The CHAMACOS Study,” Environ Health Perspect, 118:1768-1774. doi:10.1289/ehp.1002056
“Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides,” Pediatrics, online May 17, 2010 (doi:10.1542/peds.2009-3058
“Cholinesterase Inhibition,” Extension Toxicology Network, Toxicology Information Briefs, extoxnet.orst.edu
“Chlorpyrifos Facts EPA 738-F-01-006,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, epa.gov
“Safety Measures Won’t Protect Children from Chlorpyrifos,” Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 106, Number 1, January 1998.
“EPA Seeks Advice in Reviewing the Impact of Pesticides on Endangered Species,” Beyond Pesticides, March 18, 2011
“Scientists Examine Chlorpyrifos Levels in Potatoes,” Beyond Pesticides, December 20, 2010
“Groups Call for Full Ban of Pesticide, Once Widely Used in Homes,” Beyond Pesticides, October 14, 2010
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