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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on September 12th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 27 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 18, Issue 27

California EPA investigating protections on widely used pesticide


The California Environmental Protection Agency announced Aug. 18 that two environmental agencies are pursuing health protections on chlorpyrifos, a widely used pesticide, which could lead to increased statewide restrictions on chlorpyrifos use.

After scientists at the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) discovered possible public health risks associated with chlorpyrifos, the department released an updated draft risk assessment of the pesticide and began its scientific and public review process.

The process includes a public comment period that will last for 45 days, according to Assistant Director of the DPR’s Communications Department Charlotte Fadipe, and a public workshop scheduled for Sept. 15 in Sacramento. Following the comment period, the DPR’s draft risk assessment will go before the Scientific Review Panel, an independent team of nine scientists who will thoroughly review the pesticide’s possible risks.

The Scientific Review Panel’s process could run until December 2018, Fadipe said, and may lead to further restrictions on use of the pesticide. Still, Fadipe said use of chlorypyrifos has decreased by nearly 50 percent in the last decade. Santa Barbara County used just 404 pounds of chlorypyrifos in 2015, Fadipe said, a small amount compared to the 286,000 pounds used by Kern County during the same year.

Santa Barbara County Assistant Agricultural Commissioner Rudy Martel said there were nine growers using chlorpyrifos in the county in 2016.

Fadipe said DPR scientists believe chlorpyrifos—a chemical widely used on California nut trees, fruit, vegetable, and grain crops to kill mites and insects—could act as a toxic air contaminant. Recent studies have shown that excessive exposure to chlorpyrifos in the air may cause nausea, dizziness, and respiratory paralysis in humans. Exposure to the pesticide in water, Fadipe said, may be toxic to fish, aquatic invertebrates, and marine organisms.

Other studies show that chlorpyrifos may cause developmental neurotoxicity, Fadipe said, meaning exposure to the pesticide in utero or during early childhood could lead to developmental disorders.

“So we have a lot of rules that must be followed to prevent these from occurring,” Fadipe said.

The DPR is recommending to county agriculture commissioners an increased distance between locations where chlorpyrifos are used and sensitive areas, including homes, hospitals, and schools. Fadipe said that although specific distances will not be decided at the Sept. 15 workshop, many would be three times the current distances.*

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is also reviewing the pesticide’s possible threat to public health, according to Deputy Director Sam Delson. Delson said the OEHHA is taking written public comments until just before its Nov. 29 meeting with the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee.

The meeting could make chlorpyrifos a Proposition 65 toxicant. Delson said a law passed by California voters in 1986 requires all chemicals that cause cancer or reproductive harm to be compiled on the Proposition 65 list. All companies that expose Californians to listed chemicals must provide a clear warning before exposure.

The committee will decide on Nov. 29 whether to add chlorpyrifos to the Proposition 65 list. If it is added, Delson said companies would have until Nov. 29, 2018, to stop using the pesticide or to add warnings to their products. Businesses using less than the harbor level, government agencies, and businesses with fewer than 10 employees are exempt from providing Proposition 65 warnings, Delson said.

“The best part of Proposition 65 is that most companies don’t want to have to put a warning on the product so they’ll often make it safer and take out harmful chemicals,” Delson said. “And that’s the ultimate goal, that products would be safer.”

* Editor's note: This article was edited from a previous version to correct a factual error. Sept. 12, 2017.

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