HONOLULU, Hawaii — Last month Gov. David Ige signed a bill banning chlorpyrifos use in agricultural settings, making Hawaii the first state to do so.
Chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate insecticide, is considered a mainstay treatment for many different crops, however, the chemistry has long been controversial among environmentalists who claim it is hazardous to both human and animal health and poses a risk to water and other ecological elements.
Hawaii’s SB 3095, signed by the governor June 13, provides that starting Jan. 1, 2019, anyone seeking to use pesticides with chlopyrifos must request a temporary permit from the state department of agriculture and that, beginning Jan. 1, 2023, there will be a complete ban on chlorpyrifos. Beginning next year anyone seeking to use a product containing chlorpyrifos must report his use to the state department of agriculture. The bill also states products containing chlorpyrifos may not be used within a 100 feet around schools during normal school hours.
Although Hawaii is the first state to institute an all-out ban, last year Attorneys General from New York, California, Washington, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland and Vermont also called for a ban. In addition, last summer senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn), Kamala Harris (D-Calif), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Edward Markey (D-Mass) introduced a bill – The Protect Children, Farmers & Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act – that would ban chlorpyrifos use in agriculture. So far, the bill doesn’t appear to have passed out of the senate committee on agriculture.
Chlorpyrifos has been banned for use in residential settings since 2000. At the federal regulatory level, on March 29, 2017 EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed an order denying a petition that sought to ban chlorpyrifos nationwide. In a statement Pruitt said his decision provides “regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlopyrifos, while still protecting human health and the environment.”
On March 30, the American Farm Bureau Federation issued the following statement:
“Farmers nationwide depend on chlorpyrifos in managing their crops. It is widely and safely used for a wide range of crops, including alfalfa, citrus, vegetables, soybeans, almonds and others. It also protects hundreds of thousands of acres of grass seed production, where it controls aphids, cutworms and other pests. As USDA has noted, chlorpyrifos has been used as a part of environmentally friendly IPM(Integrated Pest Management) programs for nearly 50 years.”
Earthjustice, an environmental law firm that has been suing EPA regarding chlorpyrifos on behalf of environmental groups, was livid over Pruitt’s action, asking the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on April 5, 2017 to overturn Pruitt’s decision. On July 18, 2017 the court declined to order Pruitt to make a new decision pending an administrative appeal.
On December 20 the court granted a motion to expedite the petition, which asked Pruitt to change his mind and effectively ban chlorpyrifos. According to the latest guidance from the EPA, the agency is continuing to review the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects of chlorpyrifos as part of an ongoing registration review and plans to complete its assessment by the statutory deadline of Oct. 1, 2022. In the meantime, chlorpyrifos is still available for use in agriculture as per the label, except in Hawaii.
Nonetheless the EPA maintains, residues of chlorpyrifos on food crops and most drinking water exposures continue to exceed safe levels.