The State of California is taking steps to restrict use of the insecticide chlorpyrifos over concerns it is “harming the brains of babies.”
In temporary guidelines issued this week, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation recommends farmers discontinue use on most crops and increased the required spray perimeters for the rest. They also order a halt on crop dusting with chlorpyrifos.
Recall that the Trump EPA reversed an Obama-era EPA recommendation to ban chlorpyrifos, despite significant scientific evidence implicating the pesticide in neurodevelopmental damage, especially in infants and children.
A lawsuit trying to force EPA to ban the pesticide is currently working it’s way through the courts. In August, a federal appeals court ruled that the agency had to halt sales of chlorpyrifos, ruling that “the Trump administration endangered public health by reversing an Obama-era effort to ban the chemical.” The administration is appealing this decision.
Amidst all this controversy, California is considering additional long-term restrictions on chlorpyrifos to replace these temporary guidelines, which are voluntary. On the table – classifying the controversial insecticide as a “toxic air contaminant,” meaning it “poses a risk of serious illness or death.”
Farm groups such as the Almond Board of California have committed to following the state’s recommendations.
Give the lack of leadership at the federal level, it may be up to the states and NGOs to try and force a halt on chlorpyrifos use. The failure of Congress to pass the Farm Bill, which included a controversial provision that would have prevented this kind of local regulation of pesticides, means that there is still room for states and local jurisdictions to take the lead on chlorpyrifos regulation.
Brian Melley, “California recommends restrictions for popular pesticide,” The Sacremento Bee, November 15, 2018.