Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network

Presence of neurotoxin should be ‘red flag’ in Hawai’i

In a review paper to be published next month in the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet Neurology, researchers have raised concerns over the pesticide chlorpyrifos and other environmental contaminants that cause damage to the developing brains of children. Recent disclosures from Kauai's voluntary reporting program confirm frequent usage of chlorpyrifos on the island, but fail to provide additional details about use.

After reviewing the data, Emily Marquez, PhD, staff scientist at Pesticide Action Network, released the following statement:

"A new paper identifies several developmental neurotoxicants, including the insecticide chlorpyrifos, which pose a serious threat to the developing brains of children. The pesticide, applied to genetically engineered (GE) seed test fields in Kaua'i, and likely other parts of the state, should be a red flag for Hawai'i public health officials.

Chlorpyrifos, known commercially as Dursban or Lorsban, is an organophosphate insecticide and a known neurotoxicant. At low doses, prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos has been linked to adverse impacts on neurodevelopment such as a 7-point decrease in IQ and alterations to brain architecture in 7-year-old children.

In 2001, in an effort to reduce human health risks — particularly to children — the U.S. EPA took an important step towards protecting human health by canceling indoor uses of chlorpyrifos. But agricultural uses of the chemical persist. And applications of chlorpyrifos to GE test fields on Kaua'i and elsewhere pose an unacceptable risk to the health of children and others living or working nearby.

On Kaua'i, chlropyrifos was found in air samples collected at Waimea Canyon Middle School, as reported in a March 2013 report by the University of Hawai'i. And voluntary industry reporting — through the Agricultural Good Neighbor Program — tells us that chlorpyrifos is being used by Syngenta, BASF Plant Sciences, and DuPont Pioneer on GE test fields across the island. Unfortunately, the voluntary program on Kaua'i fails to provide the level of details contained in the recently passed, but yet to be implemented, ordinance. And this program doesn't provide mandatory reporting for the entire state.

Hawai'i isn't the only state using chlorpyrifos. In the U.S., it is still widely used in agriculture at about eight million pounds annually, putting farmworkers, families, and agricultural communities. Low-dose chlorpyrifos residue is also found on fruits and vegetables grown with the pesticide, exposing people across the country. Recent monitoring of pesticide applications by PAN members near fields in Minnesota and Iowa has documented evidence of chlorpyrifos volatilization drift.

Due to concerns over chlorpyrifos' tendency to volatilize and drift, EPA is currently requesting comments on risk to children and other bystanders from volatilization of chlorpyrifos from treated crops. EPA's chlorpyrifos preliminary volatilization assessment is based on the fact that 'the available data indicate that vapor phase chlorpyrifos may be emitted from treated fields at levels resulting in exposure to children and others who live, work, attend school or otherwise spend time nearby.'"



Contact: Paul Towers,, 916-216-1082 or 808-206-8868

Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network is dedicated to advancing alternatives to pesticides worldwide. Follow @pesticideaction

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