SACRAMENTO — The Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) is acting to ban the use of the controversial pesticide chlorpyrifos, which could put an end to use of the pesticide in California within two years.
The decision follows mounting evidence that chlorpyrifos causes serious health effects in children and other sensitive populations. These effects include impaired brain and neurological development. It has been linked to permanent brain damage in young children.
The announcement comes a little more than two years after the Trump Administration reversed a proposed federal ban of chlorpyrifos. The process to cancel registration for the pesticide is expected to take from six months to two years, and will be the first time a pesticide has ever been cancelled in California.
“This pesticide is a neurotoxin and it was first put on the market in 1965,” California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Jared Blumenfeld said. “So it’s been on the shelf a long time and it’s past its sell-by date.”
In April, California EPA classified chlorpyrifos as a toxic air contaminant, which is defined as “an air pollutant which may cause or contribute to an increase in mortality or an increase in serious illness, or which may pose a present or potential hazard to human health.”
The DPR will now convene a working group tasked with identifying safer alternatives to avoid replacing chlorpyrifos with an equally harmful pesticide.
“California’s action to cancel the registration of chlorpyrifos is needed to prevent the significant harm this pesticide causes children, farm workers and vulnerable communities,” Blumenfeld said. “This action also represents a historic opportunity for California to develop a new framework for alternative pest management practices.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he has added $5.7 million in new funding into the May budget revision to support the transition to safer, more sustainable alternatives to chlorpyrifos.
DPR’s recommendations for tighter restrictions on the use of chlorpyrifos will remain in place during the two-year registration process. These include a ban on aerial spraying, quarter-mile buffer zones and limiting use to crop-pest combinations that lack alternatives. DPR will support aggressive enforcement of these restrictions.
The proposed cancellation would apply to dozens of agricultural products containing the pesticide. Chlorpyrifos has been prohibited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for residential uses since 2001.
Chlorpyrifos is used to control pests on a variety of crops, including alfalfa, almonds, citrus, cotton, grapes and walnuts. It has declined in use over the past decade as California growers have shifted to safer alternatives. Use of the pesticide dropped more than 50 percent from two million pounds in 2005 to just over 900,000 pounds in 2016.
“This is especially good news for our Salinas Valley and Pajaro Valley communities that have faced serious threats to their health from chlorpyrifos for generations,” noted Sarait Martinez, community organizer with Safe Ag Safe Schools. “We’re elated that the governor has decided to cancel chlorpyrifos, and hope the process to end it goes as quickly as possible. ”