Collecting hair samples in Cutler-Orosi
For the television special, produced by Martin Boudot for France 2, the French national tv station, researchers took hair samples from children in Cutler-Orosi, an unincorporated community in Tulare County in the San Joaquin Valley, and in a community in Hawaii.
In California, each of the six children tested had at least 50 different pesticides in their body.
The report highlights research linking chlorpyrifos to falling IQs, autism and ADHD in children and includes interviews with researchers like Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a specialist at the UC Davis MIND Institute.
"It surprises me that someone from another country had to come to learn more about the use of certain pesticides that are dangerous to my family's health. In fact, the hair samples taken by the reporter found that my child has been exposed to multiple pesticides. It puts things in perspective as to where state priorities are. Department of Pesticide Regulation officials need to act swiftly to ban the chemical," said Claudia Angulo, the San Joaquin Valley parent of a child in the study.
Hair testing is an affordable and robust method for testing exposures. Levels of exposure can't be directly linked to health effects without additional information, but they do raise concerns around potential impacts.
"Evidence of the neurotoxic pesticide, chlorpyrifos, was found in children's bodies, as well as breakdown products that generally tell us that these children were exposed to other types of neurotoxic organophosphate pesticides. The results show that these children were exposed to a cocktail of pesticides, and the consequences of exposure to such mixtures over a lifetime are not known, nor is the issue of exposure to such mixtures currently evaluated by our regulatory agencies," said Emily Marquez, an endocrinologist and staff scientist at Pesticide Action Network.
Many of the pesticides found in the children's hair are still allowed for use in California but are banned in France. According to the California Department of Public Health, chlorpyrifos is one of the top ten most widely used pesticides within a quarter mile of California schools.
Federal officials have indicated they are moving to ban the brain-harming chemical, already banned for home use since 2000. Californians for Pesticide Reform is maintaining pressure to make sure this proposed ban withstands strenuous opposition from the main manufacturer Dow. CPR continues to push the state of California to support farmers' transition to more sustainable practices that don't rely on highly hazardous pesticides.