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Farmworkers, Advocates Rejoice as CA Ends Sale of Chlorpyrifos

Farmworkers' advocates have been calling for a ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos for at least a decade. (Californians for Pesticide Reform)
Farmworkers' advocates have been calling for a ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos for at least a decade. (Californians for Pesticide Reform)
October 11, 2019

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Farmworkers' groups are celebrating the end of at least a decade-long battle to ban a toxic pesticide in California after the state Environmental Protection Agency announced a new deal with manufacturers of chlorpyrifos. The pesticide no longer will be sold to growers in California after Feb. 6.

Nayamin Martinez, director of the Central California Environmental Justice Network, said studies have linked chlorpyrifos to serious health effects in kids.

"It's a very dangerous chemical that can cause harm, especially in brain development, for unborn children and young children who live in close proximity where this pesticide is applied," she said.

Chlorpyrifos is widely used to control pests on a variety of crops, including alfalfa, almonds, citrus, cotton, grapes and walnuts. Farmers still can spray their existing stocks through the end of next year as long as they respect buffer zones. The state has dedicated $5 million for grant money to search for an environmentally friendly alternative.

In 2016 under President Barack Obama, the EPA had decided to ban chlorpyrifos nationwide, but President Donald Trump's first EPA director, Scott Pruitt, reversed the decision against the advice of the agency's scientists. Martinez noted that Dow Chemical, a chlorpyrifos manufacturer, donated $1 million for the Trump inauguration.

"Dow was one of the main contributors to Trump's administration fund," she said, "so it's not surprising that at a federal level, this didn't happen, more for a political reason than anything else."

Martinez said rural Fresno, Kern and Tulare counties are the top users of chlorpyrifos in the state, with especially high usage near the Central Valley towns of Lindsay, Orange Cove and Tranquility.

The CalEPA announcement is online at calepa.ca.gov.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA