LIHUE — A new draft report on pesticides used by major agribusinesses on Kauai is calling for an update to Hawaii’s pesticide laws and regulations and urges community leaders to be “far more attentive to pesticide issues.”
But the report also says there is no statistically significant evidence that “shows causality between seed company pesticide use and harms to Kauai’s flora and fauna.”
It also showed no impacts on the health of Kauai’s human population because the fact-finding group wasn’t able to find fully reliable and accurate health data, and because the populations involved are so small.
Even so, the group found 11 of the approximately 20 known health conditions associated with pesticide exposures in the Kauai population. Five of the health conditions were detailed in the report — developmental delay, ADHD, renal disease, diabetes, and obesity.
The 108-page, $100,000 report, released Thursday, was funded by the County of Kauai and Hawaii Department of Agriculture. It was commissioned in early 2015 and the fact-finding group first met in March of last year to begin the process. It was facilitated by Peter Adler’s ACCORD 3.0 Network.
“This group of eight Kauai citizens, all with science backgrounds, have worked extraordinarily hard the past 12 months,” Adler said. “We aren’t done yet and welcome factual additions and corrections before we put our final report together.”
The group is also asking for feedback on the report. It will be open for comment until April 8, and there will be a public presentation of the information on April 4.
The Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, representing Kauai’s seed companies in a news release sent to TGI, said the report’s suggestions will “create substantial and additional costs for taxpayers and consumers.”
The association acknowledged the work that went into the report and said it “should reassure residents of Kauai that there are no serious environmental or human health concerns connected to the use of pesticides by seed companies.”
Kauai council member Gary Hooser, however, said he thinks the report validates those health concerns “that have been expressed by many in our community over the past several years.”
The report calls on the state’s departments of land and natural resources, agriculture, health, and education, as well as Gov. David Ige’s office, and the county of Kauai to step up their game when it comes to pesticides.
The goal is to strengthen environmental, agricultural and health data collection, and to establish new standards for chronic, low-level exposure to pesticides.
The group is asking the state to set aside $3 million for the Hawaii Department of Agriculture for implementation of its suggestions.
Also, the report requests the monitoring of surface and near-shore water, air quality at Kauai’s schools, and the creation of air, soil and dust sampling programs. It charges the Office of Hawaiian Affairs with monitoring the ponds where traditional salt gathering is practiced, and the county’s Department of Water with testing for the presence of the chemical chlorpyrifos in Kauai’s drinking water systems.
“I am hopeful that our county and state governments will now follow through with the recommendations, testing and recommendations of the industry suggested in the report,” Hooser said.
Kauai resident Fern Rosenstiel, in a news release sent to TGI, said she thinks the report has reinforced the need for better regulations of the agricultural sector.
“We have waited far too long for this fact-finding report and we are still waiting for action,” Rosenstiel said. “I call on all officials on all levels of government to help protect our communities and homes.”
Pesticide use on Kauai
According to the report, Kauai’s seed companies and Kauai Coffee applied 23 different Restricted Use Pesticide (RUP) products containing 16 different active ingredients between December 2013 and July 2015.
Review of 17 environmental samples from Kauai detected levels of two pesticides — atrazine and metolachlor — that exceeded benchmarks set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The report said those samples “most likely came from recent use on seed industry fields.”
It also compares Mainland corn production to Kauai’s and states that the island’s seed companies “appear to be applying roughly 0.8 to 1.7 times the amounts of different RUP herbicides and roughly 1 to 3 times the amounts of different RUP insecticides per acre.”
Over that same two-year period, agribusiness on Kauai used about 18-tons of RUPs in total, which included 7.5 tons of active ingredients. About 75 percent of RUP sales by volume on Kauai are for non-agricultural uses.
The county’s departments of public works and water are responsible for much of the bulk of RUP sales, but according to the DOW and report itself, it’s due to the use of chlorine in the routine disinfection of drinking water.
Seed and coffee production is responsible for about 25 percent of RUP sales.
“Agricultural chemicals go through many years of studies before they are authorized for use in the field,” The Hawaii Crop Improvement Association news release said. “When these products are properly used, there are no significant negative impacts.”
The association also says the report’s unsystematic approach is not based on scientific findings and said the association’s members believe revisions in the report are necessary.
In a news release sent to TGI, Ashley Lukens, director of the Hawaii Center for Food Safety, said there is extensive medical literature establishing pesticide exposure is dangerous to human health.
“It’s time for the state to close our regulatory gaps and ensure the safety of our communities,” Lukens said.
Fred Cowell, general manager for Kauai Coffee, said he still needed some time to digest the report, which he received on Thursday afternoon, but emphasized that Kauai Coffee is different than the seed companies.
“We’re in a little bit different business, even though we’re mentioned in the report,” Cowell said. “We’re careful to use only what’s been prescribed for use on coffee and in accordance with the labels.”
The full report is available at www.accord3.com/pg1000.cfm. Public comments can be sent to email@example.com until midnight on April 8.
A public presentation and informational briefing on the report will be held by the study group from 7-9 p.m. Monday, April 4, at the Kauai Veterans Center in Lihue.