Here’s a question: Do you think that a chemical cousin of nerve agents used in World War II that alters the brain function of children should be used as a pesticide? I’d hazard a guess that most people think this is a bad idea. The Trump administration, on the other hand, thinks this is just fine.
What I’m talking about here is the decision from President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency — going against decades of science and its own scientist’s advice —to reject an Obama-era petition to ban the pesticide called chlorpyrifos.
What we know about chlorpyrifos is alarming. Perhaps the most well-known study is one done by researchers at Columbia University who performed brain imaging on young kids with high exposure to chlorpyrifos. The results are shocking and unambiguous. In the words of the researchers: “This study reports significant associations of prenatal exposure to a widely used environmental neurotoxicant, at standard use levels, with structural changes in the developing human brain.”
Yes, you read that right. The pesticide the Trump administration wants to continue to use interferes with childhood brain development. Trump’s EPA assured the public in a statement that “there is good reason” to continue allowing farmers to use the chemical, arguing that “critical questions remained” regarding its harmful effects. Let’s explore the science.
Chlorpyrifos operates by targeting the nervous system of living animals. Here’s how it works: When a nerve cell in our body is stimulated and wants to pass that message to an adjacent nerve cell, it needs a means to pass that message along. Nerve cells do this by releasing a small amount of acetylcholine (ACH) at their terminal end so that adjacent nerve cells can pick up that signal and pass that message along. The receptors on the adjacent nerve cell detect the ACH, which triggers them to “fire,” and the cascade continues, thereby transmitting the signal throughout the brain and body. For that reason, ACH is what is called a neurotransmitter.