One of the first major decisions that former Oklahoma attorney general and perpetual climate change denier Scott Pruitt took as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency was to approve a pesticide called chlorpyrifos, which the agency proposed banning during the administration of former President Barack Obama.
However, since President Donald Trump and his cronies appear to be on a crusade to reverse all the major decisions and progress made during the Obama era — be it immigration or health care — Pruitt also greenlit the dangerous chemical despite protests from health experts and environmentalists.
Earlier this month, the pesticide poisoned at least 50 farm workers at Dan Andrews Farms outside Bakersfield, California. Twelve victims reported severe symptoms of vomiting and nausea; one of them even lost consciousness.
“We started getting an odor, pesticide odor, coming in from the mandarin orchards west of our field,” Dan Andrews’ supervisor Efron Zavalza told a local news channel. “I’m not pointing fingers or saying it was done incorrectly. It was just an unfortunate thing the way it was drifted. The wind came and pushed everything east and you know we were caught in the path.”
It is also important to note that more than half of the farm workers had left before the medical help arrived. While it is unclear why those workers left, the news has come at a time when several farm hands are reportedly resorting to stay away from public places, even the check-cashing shops on the day they receive their pay, in order to avoid police.
“Anybody that was exposed, that was here today, we encourage them to seek medical attention immediately. Don't wait, particularly if you're suffering from any symptoms. Whether it's nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seek medical attention immediately,” Kern County Public Health Public Relations Officer Michelle Corson announced.
As Mother Jones reported, Dow Chemical — the parent company of Dow AgroSciences, one of the main makers of the chemical — has a close relationship with the Trump administration. The industry giant made $1 million contributions to Trump’s inaugural committee in December 2016, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
Frankly, it should not even come as a surprise. After all, the EPA is led by a man who has come under fire for closely colluding with oil and gas companies to challenge environmental regulations.
“Initial signs and symptoms [of exposure to chlorpyrifos] include tearing of the eyes, runny nose, increased saliva and sweat production, nausea, dizziness and headache,” stated the National Pesticide Information Center on its website. “Signs of progression include muscle twitching, weakness or tremors, lack of coordination, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and pupil constriction with blurred or darkened vision. Signs of severe toxicity include increased heart rate, unconsciousness, loss of control of the urine or bowels, convulsions, respiratory depression, and paralysis.”
Meanwhile, children exposed to the chemical could experience brain damage.
The Kern County Department of Agriculture and Measurement Standards is still investigating the matter.