Blog: Chemical Industry Gets Payback From Trump

Pam Linn

As someone who has avoided using chemicals her whole life, I tend to rely on regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Buying only certain fruits and vegetables that are labeled “Organic” has been a huge help. But now the Trump administration is making that much more difficult.

In order to understand the process, it helps to understand how these things work.

The chemical industry supports many politicians and their campaigns to the tune of $800 billion and lobbies its way out of effective regulation. 

This has always been a problem, but now the Trump administration has chosen chemical industry lobbyists to oversee environmental protections and they are now siding with industry over the advice of doctors and the American Medical Association.

What’s troubling the medical profession now is a product of Dow Chemical Co. called chlorpyrifos that resembles sarin nerve gas in its deadly effects on the brain. To appreciate its effects on humans one has only to look at the results of nerve gas attacks that took place in Syria. They’re really ugly.

Chlorpyrifos was on track to be banned in the U.S. more than two decades ago. But now the Trump administration has overturned the planned ban that has been considered for so long.

The chemical was actually banned by the EPA for most indoor residential use 17 years ago and the agency was planning to extend the ban for agricultural and outdoor use this spring. However, the Trump administration has rejected that ban. Public health experts have expressed outrage at the move, noting that Dow donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration.

The pesticide, which belongs to a class of chemicals developed as a nerve gas made by Nazi Germany, can now be found in our air, drinking water and food, according to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. Studies have shown that it damages the brain and reduces IQ while causing tremors among children and has also been linked to lung cancer and Parkinson’s disease in adults.

Scientists at Columbia University have isolated where a child’s brain is physically altered after exposure to this pesticide, Kristof writes. One 2012 study found that it was in the umbilical cord blood of 87 percent of newborn babies tested.

So now that the EPA ban has been rejected, the chemical may still be used on golf courses, road medians and food crops. EPA scientists have found levels of this pesticide on fresh produce at levels up to l40 times the limits deemed safe, Kristof writes. Do we really want to ingest this in our food?

The Trump administration has chosen 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, Kristof writes.

The chemical industry lobby, the American Chemistry Council, has been likened to Big Tobacco for its tactics. The difference, as I see it, is that adults opt to smoke. The rest of us must eat, drink and breathe air that is contaminated with chemicals.

Trump has been cited for handing over the keys to our regulatory agency to the council and its industry allies in overseeing toxic chemicals. He also appointed two special assistants, which Kristof calls foxes guarding the henhouse.

The ramifications for this shift at the EPA will be with us for decades, long after Trump has returned to his New York real estate business—if he ever left it. But we will still be dealing with children suffering from lower IQs and brain damage and adults with lung cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

We will be shaking our heads and asking: “What were we thinking?” 

If there were one thing we can do now, it would be to contact our senators and representatives and ask them to lean on the EPA to complete the ban on chlorpyrifos.

It’s never too late to fight back and we need to take this on.