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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on August 15th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 24 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 24

Federal appeals court orders EPA to ban possibly harmful pesticide

By Kasey Bubnash

In a 2-1 ruling on Aug. 9, a federal appeals court ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban the use of a pesticide that is widely used on California fruit and nut crops within the next 60 days. 

The order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit panel came as a welcomed triumph for some national and local environmental and human rights advocacy organizations, many of which have been fighting to get the pesticide, chlorpyrifos, banned for years. 

Jorge Manly-Gil of the Guadalupe Catholic Worker, who spoke at a pesticide reform news conference on March 30, called on the Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office to impose a countywide ban on chlorpyrifos use. “How many lives have to be lost or impacted?” he asked at the event.

"Chlorpyrifos is too often used in agricultural fields next to our children's schools and in fields where women farmworkers often work during their pregnancies, endangering the health of our community," Central Coast United for A Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) wrote in a statement released Aug. 10. 

CAUSE and other organizations hosted a pesticide reform rally on March 30, where community members called on the Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner's Office to impose a countywide ban on chlorpyrifos use.

"Ending its use is a historic victory for protecting the health of farmworkers, pregnant women, and children in our community," CAUSE wrote in the statement, "as well as the air, water, and soil of our region." 

Chlorpyrifos, a chemical insecticide used on California nut trees, fruit, vegetable, and grain crops to kill mites and other insects, was banned from household use in 2000, and an EPA health risk of the pesticide published in 2016 found that exposure to it could potentially cause serious, lasting health issues. 

Studies conducted by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation also found that chlorpyrifos could act as a toxic air contaminant and that excessive exposure to chlorpyrifos in the air may cause nausea, dizziness, respiratory paralysis, and developmental disorders. Exposure to the pesticide in water, according to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, may be toxic to fish, aquatic invertebrates, and marine organisms.

Despite the growing body of research pointing to the pesticide's harmful health effects, former EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt rejected a petition for a nationwide ban on chlorpyrifos in March 2017.

The decision dealt a major blow to advocacy groups. 

But in December 2017, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment listed chlorpyrifos as a Proposition 65 Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant. And last month, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation scientific review panel listed chlorpyrifos a toxic air contaminant, which could lead to further restrictions on its use in California, according to Charlotte Fadipe, assistant director of communications for the Department of Pesticide Regulation. 

The federal court ruling is only the most recent move toward ousting chlorpyrifos.

Still, Fadipe said no immediate changes are coming to California growers. The EPA has not issued any new bans on chlorpyrifos use, and she said the organization will likely appeal the court's decision. 

Regardless, Fadipe said, chlorpyrifos use in California has been on the decline for years. 

While Santa Barbara County growers used more than 42,000 pounds of chlorpyrifos in 2005, they used only 354 pounds in 2016, according to data collected by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. And in that same time period, chlorpyrifos use in the entire state declined by nearly 54 percent.

Still, California growers used 900,629 total pounds of the pesticide in 2016, and some advocacy organizations say any use is too much.

Weekly Poll
What do you think of the changes Santa Barbara County made to its cannabis ordinances?

It was too early to make any changes. The industry is still new.
The changes were necessary. Cannabis farms are ruining our quality of life.
The changes are too restrictive and could stifle a growing industry.
More changes are needed to address the odor problems and other issues.

| Poll Results