Gov. David Ige should sign the pesticide bill passed this week by the House and the Senate. Simply put, it’s time Hawaii steps up and leads the way in protecting people against any chemicals that could harm their health. Our elected leaders passed this legislation and we can trust they did their homework and took the actions they see as necessary and many believe are long overdue.
First, let’s recap what SB 3095 will do and why the governor should sign it:
The bill would:
w Place a prohibition on use of pesticides within 100 feet of a school during instructional hours.
w Totally ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos effective Jan 1. The state Department of Agriculture is authorized to issue exemptions through Dec. 31, 2022, to allow agricultural businesses time to adjust to the ban.
w Provide a $300,000 appropriation from Pesticides Revolving Fund to effectuate the measure, including expenses for staffing, education and outreach.
w Provide a $300,000 appropriation from general revenues to develop a pesticide drift-monitoring study to evaluate pesticide drift at three schools within the state.
w Require commercial agricultural entities to regularly report their pesticide use.
These are important points. But the main one is the banning of chlorpyrifos. Hawaii would be the first in the nation to do so.
Proponents of the ban credit legislators Sen. Russell Ruderman, Rep. Richard Creagan, Rep. Dee Morikawa, Sen. Mike Gabbard, and Rep. Chris Lee for their support and leadership.
“In addition to banning chlorpyrifos, we fought hard for comprehensive reporting and no-spray zones, and I am so pleased we got them,” said Lauryn Rego, who serves on the advisory board of the Hawaii Center for Food Safety. “We have shown that toxic pesticides like chlorpyrifos can and should be phased out of our environment. And agrochemical companies that use Hawaii as their open laboratory now must report to the Department of Agriculture what is being sprayed, how much is being sprayed, and when and where those applications occur. This reporting will create a wealth of valuable data for decision-makers and researchers. What we have had so far has been woefully inadequate.”
OK. But what’s the big deal with chlorpyrifos? Don’t we have lots of pesticides we use to grow food in this country? Hasn’t it been around for six decades? Aren’t they all safe if used appropriately, per their directions? After all, didn’t the federal Environmental Protection Agency under administrator Scott Pruitt decide against a chlorpyrifos ban last year? If chlorpyrifos is so dangerous, why isn’t everyone banning it? Why aren’t more people ill? They spray the stuff right here on Kauai and everyone seems fine, right? The scientific proof that it is harmful is not rock solid. And getting the irrefutable evidence on Kauai, for instance, that chlorpyrifos is causing physical problems, would certainly be difficult and expensive.
We should add that genetic engineering is an important part in food production when trying to feed this world of billions of people. And those who sell and use chlorpyrifos would prefer not to see it banned and have resources to fight a ban that could affect them.
Again, though, why is chloryrifos bad?
Dr. Lee Evslin wrote this in a column published earlier this year in TGI:
“Chlorpyrifos is an insecticide. It kills insects by disrupting nerve cells. Physicians who serve in the House and in the Senate introduced the two main bills proposing to ban chlorpyrifos. They present in their bills the ever-increasing evidence that even at very low levels of exposure, chlorpyrifos may injure the brains of unborn babies and children.
“Studies have shown exposure to come through food and nearby agricultural spraying. Because of ongoing health concerns, chlorpyrifos has already been banned for household use (except for bait traps). Chlorpyrifos is also considered dangerous for farm workers. It is the chemical that sent the Syngenta employees recently to the hospital. Both the EPA and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have called for a nationwide ban on chlorpyrifos.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics previously urged Pruitt to take chlorpyrifos off the market.
“There is a wealth of science demonstrating the detrimental effects of chlorpyrifos exposure to developing fetuses, infants, children, and pregnant women,” the academy said in a letter. “The risk to infant and children’s health and development is unambiguous.”
Chlorpyrifos isn’t new. The AP reported that Dow has been selling chlorpyrifos for spraying on citrus fruits, apples, cherries and other crops since the 1960s. It is among the most widely used agricultural pesticides in the United States. Dow sells about 5 million pounds domestically each year.
As a result, traces of the chemical are commonly found in sources of drinking water. A 2012 study at the University of California at Berkeley found that 87 percent of umbilical-cord blood samples tested from newborn babies contained detectable levels of chlorpyrifos, the AP reported.
In October 2015, the Obama administration proposed banning the pesticide’s use on food. A risk assessment memo issued in November by nine EPA scientists concluded: “There is a breadth of information available on the potential adverse neurodevelopmental effects in infants and children as a result of prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos.”
Still, the EPA declined to ban it and says its next review of the chemical’s safety will occur by October 2022.
That’s more than four years if you’re counting.
That’s why we’re glad to see our elected leaders chose to act now rather than wait. They chose to lead rather than follow. This is not hysteria. This is not rash decision-making. This is not propaganda. This is not some crazy legislation created by a bunch of paranoid, conspiracy-theory people who whipped the public up into a frenzy for no good reason. This is about protecting the health of our young and old.
This pesticide bill was years in the making. It is time for it to become law. It is sound, reasonable legislation and Gov. David Ige should sign it.
Again, we quote Dr. Lee Evslin. If you don’t believe us, believe him:
“Let’s find a new way to speak with each other, respect the science, and make appropriate regulations to ensure both the health of our communities and the viability of agriculture in Hawaii.”
This bill is such an appropriate regulation.