As a pediatrician and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, I strongly disagree with the point made by the recent commentary, “In 2020, it’s time to strengthen pesticide regulation in Maryland” (Jan. 2). All Marylanders, especially children, would indeed be safer if the toxic pesticide, chlorpyrifos is banned, rather than “regulated.” Anything less than a complete ban would not eliminate dangerous exposures. The Maryland General Assembly will have the opportunity to pass such a ban in this year’s legislative session.
Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide widely applied in the production of fruits, vegetables, nuts and other conventionally grown crops including child favorites like apples, peaches, grapes and strawberries. Overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates the detrimental effects of chlorpyrifos exposure to developing fetuses, infants, children and pregnant women, including preterm birth, low birth weight, congenital abnormalities, pediatric cancers, asthma and neurobehavioral and cognitive deficits (lowered IQs, ADHD and autistic disorders).
In 2015 and again in 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that chlorpyrifos was unsafe at any level of exposure and proposed a rule to ban all uses. Unfortunately, the Trump administration overturned this proposed rule within weeks of taking office, ignoring the risks to human health and the environment.
In its review, the EPA determined that children aged 1 to 2 years old could be exposed to levels of chlorpyrifos in their diets that were up to 140 times above the level of concern for risk. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics was “deeply alarmed” by the Trump administration’s refusal to ban chlorpyrifos nationally, and why the Maryland Chapter of the AAP and Maryland MedChi supported bills to ban it our state in 2108 and 2019.
The science is clear: Chlorpyrifos is extremely dangerous, especially to children. Safer alternatives that are less toxic to humans and the environment are currently used throughout Maryland to target pests on farms, orchards, vineyards and golf courses. Eliminating the possibility of exposure to this pesticide is the only action that will make Marylanders safe from its toxic effects. No regulation or oversight that allows the continued use of chlorpyrifos could possibly be considered as safe as a ban on its use.