Kauai healthcare leaders ask Ige to ban pesticide

LIHUE — Seventeen healthcare professionals on Kauai are adding their voices to a request that Gov. David Ige ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos in Hawaii.

Physicians and psychologists on Kauai signed a letter dated April 17 asking the governor to ban the chemical from agricultural use.

Most of the health care providers signing the letter are either mental health experts or pediatricians.

Dr. Lee Evslin, a Kauai pediatrician who has been practicing for more than 30 years, said he signed it because he and the others believe Ige’s interest in the matter is the state’s “last hope.”

Those concerns arose when Scott Pruitt, the newly appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency, overrode the recommendation of the EPA’s scientific committee and backed down from banning chlorpyrifos.

Concerns compounded when measures in the Hawaii Legislature aimed at banning the pesticide, as well as buffer zone and disclosure bills, didn’t pass during the latest session.

“The science clearly shows that chlorpyrifos may cause irreversible, adverse changes to the unborn child’s brain,” Evslin said. “The federal government is apparently not going to protect our keiki, and the state Legislature failed to pass any meaningful legislation concerning pesticides.”

He continued: “Our last hope in this state is that the governor would take an interest and work to ban this dangerous and toxic substance.”

As of last week, the group hadn’t heard back from Ige’s office. Ige did not respond to questions from TGI about banning chlorpyrifos.

It’s not the first time people from Kauai have approached Ige, requesting consideration of a chlorpyrifos ban.

In March, Ige met with members of Hawaii SEED, the group’s president Jeri Di Pietro, and a few others from Kauai and Maui.

Their goal was to thank him for funding the state-mandated Joint-Fact Finding Report, which studied the effects of pesticide use on Kauai’s Westside, as well as inform him of their concerns about chlorpyrifos.

Ige visited Kauai in early April, and Di Pietro was able to ask if he would ban chlorpyrifos. “He replied that he wasn’t familiar with that insecticide,” she said.

Di Pietro said she and the members of Hawaii SEED and GMO Free Kauai “strongly support the manao of healthcare professionals” of Kauai who reached out to Ige.

“We stand behind precaution and urge a ban on the widespread, undisclosed spraying of insecticidal neurotoxins, like chlorpyrifos,” she said. “It is extremely harmful to children’s development, worker safety and ecosystem habitats.”

It’s the state’s responsibility to protect the health of the residents, Di Pietro pointed out. Evslin said that’s why he and others are reaching out as well.

“We ask that the governor take our strong concerns and recommendations into consideration,” the healthcare providers state in their letter. “Beginning this year, chlorpyrifos should be prohibited for agricultural use in Hawaii.”

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