If you purchased a Christmas tree from a lot or cut your own from a farm, chances are a toxic pesticide has been applied to Oh
Christmas tree farms regularly apply Chlorpyrifos. This Dow Chemical product is an organophosphate pesticide that attacks the nervous system of insects and worms. 1. Unfortunately, Chlorpyrifos also causes neurological and nervous system disorders in humans, especially children causing lower IQs. 2
Chlorpyrifos was slated to be completely banned in the US under the Obama administration. Trump’s EPA administrator Scott Pruitt reversed this decision just a few months after taking office in March 2017. 3
- 1965: Chlorpyrifos introduced by Dow Chemical
- 1996: Food Quality Protect Act requires children to be protected from pesticide exposure.4
- 2000: Chlorpyrifos registrants reached an agreement with EPA to voluntarily cancel all residential use products except those registered for ant and roach baits in child-resistant packaging and fire ant mound treatments.5
- 2008: Europe bans chlorpyrifos.
- August 2015: Ninth Circuit Cout of Appeals “ordered EPA to respond to an administrative Petition to revoke all tolerances for the insecticide chlorpyrifos” 6
- November 2015: Obama administration proposes “to revoke all tolerances for chlorpyrifos”. 7
- March 2017: Scott Pruitt rejects the petition [not]https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/09/us/politics/chlorpyrifos-pesticide-ban-epa-court.html[/note]
- August 2018: Ninth Circuit Cout of Appeals orders Trump EPA to ban the pesticide within 60 days 89
- December 2018: Christmas trees sprayed with chlorpyrifos decorate Americans homes.
According the EPA’s own finding on chlorpyrifos:
- All food exposures exceed safe levels, with children ages 1–2 exposed to levels of chlorpyrifos that are 140 times what EPA deems safe.
- There is no safe level of chlorpyrifos in drinking water.
- Pesticide drift reaches unsafe levels at 300 feet from the field’s edge.
- Chlorpyrifos is found at unsafe levels in the air at schools, homes, and communities in agricultural areas.
- All workers who mix and apply chlorpyrifos are exposed to unsafe levels of the pesticide even with maximum personal protective equipment and engineering controls.
- Field workers are allowed to re-enter fields within 1–5 days after pesticide spraying, but unsafe exposures continue on average 18 days after applications.10
Obviously, Christmas trees are only one crop where chlorpyrifos is heavily used. Apples, broccoli, strawberries, corn, etc. are all affected. Even after being peeled and washed, the pesticide remains on citrus and melons according to EPA data. 11
Anytime the room temperature in your home is above 68 degrees F, there is potential for off-gassing from your Christmas tree. 12
The fate of chlorpyrifos will probably end up being decided by the US Supreme Court. It’s not the only pesticide and herbicide that is a cause for concern used in the tree farm business. Glyphosate (aka Round-Up) is very common.
There are alternatives for your holiday tree. For years, our family has kept a potted living tree that we move inside for Christmas. There are also organic tree farms. Furthermore, plastic trees can take a thousand years to decompose.