LIHUE — Talk of support of a nationwide ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos can be traced to Kauai County living rooms.
Those who have been working to create pesticide-free buffer zones are welcoming the support from U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, who both recently introduced bills banning chlorpyrifos on a national level.
Friday, Gabbard’s office announced her support for the legislation, stating the pesticide “has been linked to damaging and often irreversible health outcomes in workers, pregnant women and children.”
“The people of Kauai suffered the painful consequences of chlorpyrifos being used in our community, where dozens of workers were hospitalized from exposure to this dangerous pesticide,” Gabbard said in a Friday statement. “We cannot put a price tag on the health and lives of our people.”
In March 2017, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed an existing ban on the use of chlorpyrifos that was put in place by the Obama Administration. That same year, Syngenta was fined $150,000 and ordered to spend $400,000 on worker protection training sessions after workers were exposed to the pesticide in 2016 and 2017.
In 2018, Hawaii became the first state in the country to ban pesticides containing chlorpyrifos, starting January 2019. Exemptions are available for those that need through 2022, according to the state law.
As that ban was going through the legislative process, opposition said it could negatively impact farmers who need to stay on top of pest control — particularly in Hawaii’s environment, where weeds easily get out of control.
Bennette Misalucha, of Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, wasn’t available for comment Friday before press time, but made public comment during the process and pointed out those potentials, but said the association’s member companies would abide by the new rules.
“As responsible neighbors and good stewards of their farms and communities, our member companies will continue to comply with all applicable federal and state rules and regulations, including this new law,” she said in June.
Jeri Di Pietro, of Hawaii SEED, which supported the Hawaii chlorpyrifos ban, said the local movement is “proud to see our elected officials in Washington, D.C., demonstrate their understanding of the harm experienced in Hawaii.”
“The time for true rational stewardship of human and wildlife habitat is long overdue. I am happy to see politicians from Hawaii introducing this ban and leading the awareness that people, pollinators, and the planet must come first,” she said.
Gary Hooser, with the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action, said Gabbard and Schatz’s support of a national level ban is “a testament to work that started here on Kauai.”
“Now it seems that the conversation that started in Kapaa, and expanded to include every county and our entire state, will now be held at the national level,” Hooser said. “Kauai residents should take pride in their collective leadership, that now may in fact result in the protection of children throughout the country.”
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.