Chemical Case

CalEPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld called the state’s ban on chlorpyrifos historic; it will take two years for it to be implemented.

Three Monterey County farming companies, four mothers with homes near agriculture fields, and four children with physical and intellectual disabilities.

Those mothers are Virginia Perez, Marisol Padilla, Isela Velarde and Veronica Herrera, and together they are the plaintiffs in three separate lawsuits filed in Monterey County Superior Court against Dow AgroSciences LLC, Braga Ranch Inc., Valley Farm Management Inc. and D’Arrigo Brothers Co., alleging their children suffer from disabilities due to exposure to chlorpyrifos, a pesticide manufactured by Dow that’s also a neurotoxin particularly harmful to pregnant women and small children.

“We keep hearing the use of chlorpyrifos is decreasing, but we know any tiny amount can cause irreversible damage to pregnant mothers and small children,” says Sarait Martinez, an organizer with the advocacy group Safe Ag Safe Schools. “I hope (the lawsuits) bring justice to these communities and help alleviate the damages these pesticides have caused.”

The first suit was filed June 6 on behalf of Padilla and Perez against Dow and Valley Farm Management, the Soledad company behind Smith Family Wines. The suit alleges Valley Farm sprayed chlorpyrifos on fields near Padilla’s and Perez’s homes while both women were pregnant, and that both their daughters now suffer from severe intellectual and learning disabilities, impacting their social skills, speech and physical abilities.

President and CEO Jason Smith says the company has no comment on the suit.

The second suit was filed July 23 on behalf of Herrera and her son against Dow and Salinas-based D’Arrigo, alleging that D’Arrigo sprayed chlorpyrifos on broccoli fields near the woman’s home and in the fields where she worked while pregnant with her son in 2006 and 2007, leading to the child’s developmental disabilities. A D’Arrigo spokesperson didn’t return a call requesting comment.

The third suit was filed July 24 on behalf of Velarde and her son against Corteva Inc., which in June acquired Dow’s agriculture assets and liabilities, and Braga Ranch. It alleges that Soledad-based Braga used chlorpyrifos on broccoli and cauliflower fields surrounding Velarde’s home and in the fields where she worked while pregnant with her son in 2006. The boy, identified as John Doe in the suit, suffers from developmental delays and disabilities.

Company president and CEO Rod Braga says he was unaware the suit had been filed and couldn’t comment.

In May, California became the third state to ban chlorpyrifos, something the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency refused to do on the national level.

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