Happy 2018! I wish you all the best in the coming year.
I have tried to keep politics out of our blog posts, but I couldn’t resist Nicholas Kristof recent op-ed piece in the New York Times of October 28, 2017. It strikes a cord, since we founded Two Sisters Ecotextiles and O Ecotextiles to give people options for safe fabrics. We shouldn’t have to worry about what fabrics are doing to you! But neither should we worry about what Kristof calls Dow Chemical Company’s Nerve Gas Pesticide.
By Nicholas Kristof 10.28.17:
A pesticide, which belongs to a class of chemicals developed as a nerve gas made by Nazi Germany, is now found in food, air and drinking water. Human and animal studies show that it damages the brain and reduces I.Q.s while causing tremors among children. It has also been linked to lung cancer and Parkinson’s disease in adults. This chemical, chlorpyrifos, is hard to pronounce, so let’s just call it Dow Chemical Company’s Nerve Gas Pesticide. Even if you haven’t heard of it, it may be inside you: One 2012 study found that it was in the umbilical cord blood of 87 percent of newborn babies tested.
And now the Trump administration is embracing it, overturning a planned ban that had been in the works for many years.
The Environmental Protection Agency actually banned Dow’s Nerve Gas Pesticide for most indoor residential use 17 years ago — so it’s no longer found in the Raid you spray at cockroaches (it’s very effective, which is why it’s so widely used; then again, don’t suggest this to Dow, but sarin nerve gas might be even more effective!). The E.P.A. was preparing to ban it for agricultural and outdoor use this spring, but then the Trump administration rejected the ban on March 29, 2017.
That was a triumph for Dow, but the decision stirred outrage among public health experts. They noted that Dow had donated $1 million for President Trump’s inauguration.
So Dow’s Nerve Gas Pesticide will still be used on golf courses, road medians and crops that end up on our plate. Kids are told to eat fruits and vegetables, but E.P.A. scientists found levels of this pesticide on such foods at up to 140 times the limits deemed safe.
“This was a chemical developed to attack the nervous system,” notes Virginia Rauh, a Columbia professor who has conducted groundbreaking research on it. “It should not be a surprise that it’s not good for people.”
Remember the brain-damaging lead that was ignored in drinking water in Flint, Michigan? What’s happening under the Trump administration is a nationwide echo of what was permitted in Flint: Officials are turning a blind eye to the spread of a number of toxic substances, including those linked to cancer and brain damage.
“We are all Flint,” Professor Rauh says. “We will look back on it as something shameful.”
Here’s the big picture: The $800 billion chemical industry lavishes money on politicians and lobbies its way out of effective regulation. This has always been a problem, but now the Trump administration has gone so far as to choose chemical industry lobbyists to oversee environmental protections. The American Academy of Pediatrics protested the administration’s decision on the nerve gas pesticide, but officials sided with industry over doctors. The swamp won.
The chemical industry lobby, the American Chemistry Council, is today’s version of Big Tobacco. One vignette: Chemical companies secretly set up a now-defunct front organization called Citizens for Fire Safey that purported to be a coalition of firefighters, doctors and others alarmed about house fires. The group called for requiring flame retardant chemicals in couches, to save lives, of course. A photo was posted on the Facebook page of Citizens for Fire Safety. Despite its name, the organization represented chemical companies, not concerned members of the public.
In fact, this was an industry hoax, part of a grand strategy to increase sales of flame retardants — whose principal effect seems to be to cause cancer. The American Chemistry Council was caught lying about its involvement in this hoax.
Yet these days, Trump is handing over the keys of our regulatory apparatus to the council and its industry allies. An excellent New York Times article by Eric Lipton (click here) noted that to oversee toxic chemicals, Trump appointed a council veteran along with toxicologist with a history of taking council money to defend carcinogens. In effect, Trump appointed two foxes to be Special Assistant for Guarding the Henhouse.
Some day we will look back and wonder: What were we thinking?! I’ve written about the evidence that toxic chemicals are lowering men’s sperm counts, and new research suggests by extrapolation that by 2060, a majority of American and European men could even be infertile. These days we spew fewer toxins into our air and rivers, and instead we dump poisons directly into our own bodies.
A Dow spokeswoman, Rachelle Schikorra, told me that “Dow stands by the safety of chlorpyrifos”. Given Dow’s confidence, I suggest that the company spray it daily in its executive dining rooms.
Look, it’s easy to get diverted by the daily White House fireworks. But long after the quotidian craziness is forgotten, Americans will be caring for victims of the chemical industry’s takeover of safety regulation.
Democrats sometimes gloat that Trump hasn’t managed to pass significant legislation so far, which is true. But he has been tragically effective at dismantling environmental and health regulations — so that Trump’s most enduring legacy may be cancer, infertility and diminished I.Q.s for decades to come.
 Huen, et al; “Organophosphate pesticide levels in blood and urine of women and newborns living in an agricultural community”, Environ Res., 2012 Aug; 117-8-16.
 Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA, said the agency needed to study the science more, and the matter will not likely be revisited until 2022.
 According to EarthJustice, there is no safe level of chlorpyrifos in drinking water; pesticide drift reaches unsafe levels at 300 feet from the field’s edge; chlorpyrifos is found at unsafe levels in the air at schools, homes and communities in agricultural areas.
 Kristof, Nicholas, “Are Your Sperm in Trouble?, New York Times, March 11, 2017
 Sifferlin, Alexandra; “Men’s Sperm Counts are Down Worldwide: Study”, Time, 7.25.17