Much of the negative effects of the Trump administration are intangible, either taking the form of psychological trauma or economic and environmental harm that will only be understood in the fullness of time. But there’s at least one consequence that won’t take years to discover: damaged brains across America.
That may sound hyperbolic, but it refers to the very real effects of a chemical called chlorpyrifos. Originally, chlorpyrifos belonged to a class of chemicals developed in Nazi-era Germany as a form of nerve gas. The chemical later proved to be an effective insecticide and became one of the most widely used pesticides in the United States—until studies began to reveal its side-effects.
It turns out chlorpyrifos wreaks havoc on human and animal brains. As Nicholas Kristof from the New York Times recently reported, numerous studies have shown how the chemical "damages the brain and reduces I.Q.s while causing tremors among children."
Chlorpyrifos, which has worked its way into the food, water and air supply of the U.S., has also been linked to cases of lung cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
So why isn’t the toxic stuff banned already? That's a good question. Around 17 years ago the Environmental Protection Agency, under the Obama administration, did ban the pesticide for residential use and was on its way to extending the ban to agriculture and outdoor use this past spring. And then the Trump administration intervened by rejecting the ban.
Connecting the dots here isn't difficult. As Kristof points out, the "nerve gas pesticide" is made by Dow Chemicals, a company that donated $1 million to President Trump’s inauguration. In return, Dow is now allowed to continue spraying its toxic pesticide on crops and public lands for years to come.
"This was a chemical developed to attack the nervous system," Virginia Rauh, a Columbia professor who has conducted research on the pesticide, told Kristof. "It should not be a surprise that it’s not good for people."
Scientists from the EPA came to a similar conclusion years ago when they discovered that fruits and vegetables treated with this pesticide contained "up to 140 times the limits deemed safe."
A Dow spokesperson told Kristof that the company "stands by the safety of chlorpyrifos." Despite protests from the American Academy of Pediatrics that say otherwise, the Trump administration chose the interest of industry over concerns for public health. Following years of effort to rid the world of a proven harmful substance, Americans will now continue to be exposed to Dow Chemical Company's nerve gas pesticide.
"This is troubling for every single one of us who eats fruits and vegetables—especially children and expecting mothers—all across the country," said NRDC senior scientist Jen Sass. "No matter how you vote, there are some issues we should all be able to agree on, and this is one of them: Chemicals that are dangerous for our children’s health do not belong in the food we feed our families. And we will not stand by while a powerful industry continues to put them at risk."