State takes small step, fails to protect children’s health from neurotoxic pesticide | Pesticide Action Network
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State takes small step, fails to protect children’s health from neurotoxic pesticide

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 25, 2014

Press contacts:
Paul Towers, PAN North America, (916) 216-1082, ptowers@panna.org

State takes small step, fails to protect children’s health from neurotoxic pesticide

After a decade of inaction, groups appeal to Governor to help state phase out chlorpyrifos

Child dandelionSacramento, CA — After more than a decade of review, California officials announced steps to permit and oversee applications of Dow’s pesticide chlorpyrifos at the county level. A coalition of environmental, farming and farmworker groups signaled support for this largely voluntary program but appealed to Governor Jerry Brown to create a stronger statewide plan for the neurotoxic pesticide’s evaluation and phaseout.

“Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) officials have shown an unwillingness to commit to phasing out neurotoxic chlorpyrifos. After a decade, they’ve continued to delay meaningful action and put California’s children in harm’s way,” said Sarah Aird, co-director of Californians for Pesticide Reform. “Governor Brown should help his agency create a clear timeline for completing an independent evaluation and adopting immediate protections for children, as Dow’s pesticide is phased out in favor of cutting-edge solutions.”

California officials have been evaluating the continued use of the pesticide since 2004, after the pesticide was banned for household use federally in 2000. Dow’s chlorpyrifos is heavily used on fruit and nut orchards, vineyards and row crops in California at over 1 million pounds annually. This widespread agricultural use means that people continue to be exposed through contaminated foods, drinking water and pesticides drifting off of farmland and into neighboring areas.

DPR’s announcement comes on the heels of data released earlier in the week showing that chlorpyrifos was found in the air in a third of samples taken in three California communities. It also comes after the recent release of two groundbreaking research projects — from the University of California, Berkeley and University of California, Davis — linking chlorpyrifos exposure to ADHD, autism and falling IQs in children. The latter study showed that mothers exposed to chlorpyrifos within one mile of application were 60% more likely to have children born with developmental delays.

The coalition is appealing to Governor Jerry Brown to exercise more leadership over DPR, given the department’s intransigence.

“California uses more chlorpyrifos than any other state. Governor Brown has an opportunity to protect California’s children with California solutions. First, he should prod the Department of Pesticide Regulation to develop a clear plan for phasing the chemical out of the food system, from field to fork,” said Medha Chandra, PhD, a campaign coordinator with Pesticide Action Network North America .

Today’s announcement of a “restricted use” designation for chlorpryifos could restrict the pesticide’s use near places children live, learn and play as county agricultural commissioners now have to approve each proposed application. Earlier this year, California Department of Public Health officials documented chlorpyrifos use in close proximity to 438 public schools alone. But similar restrictions on many other hazardous agricultural pesticides across the state have not significantly reduced use or resulted in widespread protections for children. 

“Giving county officials more tools to protect children is a good step, but it can’t be a substitute for more meaningful action,” said Anne Katten, MPH, pesticide and work safety specialist at California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation. “Even with more oversight, county officials regularly approve the use of hazardous pesticides like chlorpyrifos in close proximity to schools and homes.”

According to DPR staff, the proposed designation won’t go into effect until June 2015 at the earliest. The public will have the next 45 days to comment on the initial proposal.

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