Our community cannot rely on “good neighbors” to protect our health and environment. Government intervention is needed now.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced recently its intent to ban chlorpyrifos, a Restricted Use Pesticide, stating that it “ … could not conclude that the risk from aggregate exposure to chlorpyrifos meets the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) safety standard.” The report further states there is “potential for risks in small watersheds with high concentrations of farming where chlorpyrifos may be widely used.”
Numerous studies indicate children exposed to chlorpyrifos have lower IQs and poorer working memory which impacts learning, reading comprehension and the ability to pay attention. Columbia University reported “Even low to moderate levels of exposure to the insecticide chlorpyrifos during pregnancy may lead to long-term, potentially irreversible changes in the brain structure of the child … ”
So, the EPA has announced its intent to ban chlorpyrifos — yet its use will likely continue into the foreseeable future. Why?
Dow AgroScience, the largest supplier of chlorpyrifos in Hawaii, has no intention of stopping its use and will be fighting the EPA every step of the way.
This of course, is to be expected. The industry playbook originally written by Big Tobacco and adopted by the agrochemical industry starts with one primary strategy — obfuscate and delay.
First, it will claim the EPA is just wrong and that chlorpyrifos is safe. Then, it will claim that even if chlorpyrifos were dangerous, it’s only a little bit dangerous, and if people would just follow the label, all would be OK.
Along the way they will generate a media narrative that the EPA is bowing to political pressure from activists who do not understand science. They will tell us in so many words to suck it up, and that pesticides are a part of everyday life. In the end, they will demand more studies, then claim the resulting additional study outcomes are flawed.
To be clear, these corporations are not “good neighbors” and no amount of money thrown at agricultural scholarships can change this. To the contrary, their mission is dominated by the pursuit of corporate profits, with the protection of health, the environment and workers — always taking a back seat.
A genuine good neighbor, one who cared about how its actions might impact the health of children who live and play on the same street, would err on the side of caution and stop using chlorpyrifos now, and not wait for the EPA’s final directive banning it.
According to the state Department of Agriculture, 7,282 pounds of chlorpyrifos were sold in Hawaii during 2014.
A 2013 air sampling report by the state and Kauai County showed, “Five pesticides (including chlorpyrifos) were detected in the indoor and outdoor passive air samples and the high volume outdoor air samples collected at Waimea Canyon Middle School.”
In 2013-2014, state stream water testing found chlorpyrifos in the Kekaha Ditch on Kauai and in Hawaii County streams. The amounts found were small. But as noted in reports such as Columbia University’s cited above, study after study showed chronic long-term exposure to even very small amounts is harmful, especially to a developing fetus and the neurological systems of young children.
The state of Hawaii can and should ban the use of chlorpyrifos today. The Department of Agriculture can do this via rule-making, the Legislature can do it via law, and the governor can accomplish this via executive order.
The EPA says it is unable to confirm chlorpyrifos’ safety and that our drinking water may be at risk. Our government can stop this harm from occurring now. Why wait?
The above blog piece was first published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday December 27, 2015
Air sample study: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B43mvAFMJQpcbDBoMDBfaTZHZzA/view?pli=1
Water sampling study: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B43mvAFMJQpcLWhpSGpzZVhjUVk/view
More DOW position: http://www.agri-pulse.com/EPA-proposes-ban-on-chlorpyrifos-10302015.asp