Following a 2017 decision by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) not to prohibit the use of pesticides containing an organophosphate known as chlorpyrifos, California’s own EPA has initiated steps toward a statewide ban.
“This pesticide is a neurotoxin,” California Environmental Secretary Jared Blumenfeld tells the Associated Press. Because the federal government has allowed its continued use, California is joining Hawaii, New York, Oregon, Connecticut, and New Jersey, which have all approved bans or have bills under consideration to remove chlorpyrifos from the market, in taking matters into its own hands. The California ban, or cancellation, could take up to two years to go into full effect.
California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) “has done what the Trump administration has refused to do: protect children, farmworkers and millions of others from being exposed to this neurotoxic pesticide,” Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, says in a statement, according to The Washington Post. Newsom also proposed some $5.7 million in funding to help the agricultural industry make the switch to safer alternatives.
“This is a historic victory for California’s agricultural communities and for children nationwide,” Miriam Rotkin-Ellman of the Natural Resources Defense Council tells the AP. “The science clearly shows that chlorpyrifos is too dangerous to use in our fields.”
While environmentalists cheered the move, chlorpyrifos manufacturer DowDuPont says it will fight the ban. “This proposal disregards a robust database of more than 4,000 studies and reports examining the product in terms of health, safety and the environment,” company spokesman Gregg Schmidt tells the Post in an email. “We are evaluating all options to challenge this proposal.”
Casey Creamer, president of California Citrus Mutual, which represents 5,000 state farmers, similarly emphasizes the risk to eliminating chlorpyrifos from agricultural use. “It’s a very important part of the crop protection tool box,” Creamer tells the AP. “We’re fighting for our lives here trying to protect ourselves from deadly diseases, and we keep losing tools.”