Farmworker communities and health advocates in the Central Valley are asking California Gov. Jerry Brown to step up to enact a statewide ban of the brain-harming pesticide Chlorpyrifos.
“Continuing to use this chemical, given everything we know, is a cruel abandonment of our obligation to protect kids from harm,” said Nayamín Martínez, director for the Central California Environmental Justice Network.
In a press conference held March 31 at the Dickey Playground, a neighborhood park located West of Blackstone and North of Divisadero on the northern edge of Downtown Fresno, Martínez said “US EPA ignored the advices of the scientist and failed to ban this dangerous pesticide.”
“Our federal government failed to defend us,” Martínez said.
Other press conferences asking for the ban of pesticide Chlorpyrifos took place on César Chávez Day in Monterey and Tulare counties. Organizers picked that day as Chávez was a big supporter of banning harmful pesticides from use in agriculture.
Martínez said Chlorpyrifos is a potent neurotoxin, and exposure to even tiny amounts is linked to autism, ADHD, IQ loss, and neurological, respiratory, and developmental health harms.
“We are here today to ask California to be a leader and ban Chlorpyrifos in agricultural use,” said Sarah Sharpe, associate director with the Central California Asthma Collaborative (CCAC). “If Trump won’t do it, we must.”
Sharpe said in order to protect the next generation, “California must take action now and support growers to use safe replacement for Chlorpyrifos.”
Janaki Jagannath, with Community Alliance for Agroecology said the pesticide Chlorpyrifos is already banned for home and garden use since 2000.
However, the pesticide is still used in huge quantities in California, especially on orange, walnut and almond groves, Martínez said.
According to Martínez in California, 1.3 million pounds of Chlorpyrifos are use every year, roughly 20 percent of the national total in agriculture on more than 80 crops.
“Fresno has some of the heaviest use of this hazardous chemical in the state,” Martínez said, adding Fresno is the second county in the state that used the most of this pesticide.
In 2014, 231,954 pounds were used in Fresno County alone, she said.
Jagannath said last week the Trump Administration’s EPA reversed the ban of Chlorpyrifos on March 29.
“We are calling on Gov. Brown to protect Californians from Chlorpyrifos, now that Trump’s anti-environmental appointee has refused to do it,” said Jagannath.
“I am the voice of the community and I am here to tell Gov. Brown that this pesticide is affecting us,” said Eugenia Melesio, in Spanish, a farmworker who lives in Fresno County.
Melesio, who is from Oaxaca, México, has worked in agriculture for more than 15 years.
She said research has shown that this pesticide is harmful “but it is still used.”
Melesio said Cesar Chávez fought hard to eliminate harmful pesticide in agriculture.
“He would have supported us,” Melesio said of Chávez’s legacy.