Science tells us that nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment are the systemic pollutants of the Bay and its tributaries. The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint seeks to reduce those pollutants to sustainable levels.

It is working. Water quality is improving, dead zones are diminishing and underwater grasses are at levels not seen in 30 years.

But these are not the only pollutants of concern. A recent decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will reverse a prior agency decision to ban the use of a chemical pesticide, chlorpyrifos, which is acutely toxic to Bay life and has been found to cause brain damage in children.

Dr. Thomas A. Burke, director of risk science at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Policy, said, “By reversing the work of the EPA’s own scientists, [EPA Administrator] Scott Pruitt is putting the interests of pesticide manufacturers before the health of our children and our Bay.”

Further, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Fernando Stein, writes in The New York Times, “This chemical is unambiguously dangerous and should be banned from use.”

Some are voluntarily rejecting chlorpyrifos. Cutler Robinson, head groundskeeper at the Bayville Golf Club near the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach said, “We refuse to use it. It damages children’s brains and is toxic to Bay life.”

He is convinced by evidence from the National Institutes of Health that calls the chemical “toxic” to birds, “extremely toxic” to fish. 

Robinson said that he hopes that agriculture will follow the lead of the golf industry. “Currently, chlorpyrifos can be applied on crops up to one day before harvest,” Robinson said. “We’re hoping our farmers self-regulate for consumers’ health.” 

We live in a democracy, and while the power of corporate lobbyists is intense, we can fight back. If enough voters let their elected officials in the U.S. House and Senate know of their outrage over the EPA decision to put children’s brains and the environment at risk, pressure can effectively be brought to bear on Pruitt.

While children of all economic strata will be affected, those whose families are economically depressed with less access to organic fruits and vegetables are disproportionately at risk. In addition to the obvious impact on these children’s brains, the broader impact to society to pay for long-term health care should be of concern to all taxpayers.

Members of Congress must take action now to protect the health of future generations and the Bay’s creatures. Please let them know your feelings about the delisting of chlorpyrifos as well as your interest in maintaining a vigorous federal-state Clean Water Blueprint for the Bay.

The views expressed by columnists are not necessarily those of the Bay Journal.