Hawaii first state to ban harmful pesticide, overriding federal decision

June 13, 2018

Original Article

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii became the first state to prohibit the use of pesticides containing the chemical chlorpyrifos on Wednesday, after Gov. David Ige signed a bill into law.

The Environmental Protection Agency prohibited most household uses of Chlorpyfiros in residential areas 18 years ago after it was found to cause severe developmental delays in children. However in March, the Trump administration opted to halt plans to completely ban the pesticide, rejecting conclusions reached by EPA scientists.

Pesticides containing the chemical are used on an array of crops including apples, corn, and wheat, among other household food items, according to Earth Justice, the largest nonprofit environmental law organization in the United States.

Prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos is associated with lower birth weight, reduced IQ, loss of working memory, attention disorders, and delayed motor development, according to Earth Justice.

In addition to prohibiting use of the chemical, Senate Bill 3095 also requires anyone using restricted use pesticides, (RUPs) to report to the Department of Agriculture, and prohibits the use of RUPs on or within 100 feet of a school while class in session beginning in January 2019.

The bill also dictates that by July 1 of next year, the Department of Agriculture will develop a monitoring study to evaluate pesticide drift at three schools in Hawaii, and will submit its findings to the legislature before the 2020 session. $300,000 have been appropriated from the general revenue fund to support the study.

Some of the new law's measures have garnered mixed reviews from officials.

Scott Enright, chair on the Board of Agriculture, wrote in his testimony that the requirement mandating record keeping and annual pesticide reports is excessive, and will require the Department of Agriculture to hire additional staff.

He also said in his testimony that he believes the bill falls short in its goal to protect children by only targeting a specific group using the pesticides.

"While the bill seeks to address the risk of agricultural pesticide drift to Hawaii’s schools, it does not address the concern associated with pesticide drift from households and gardens in the adjoining neighborhoods," Enright said in the statement.

"The Department would like to note that pesticide odor complaints and concerns reported by schools have been attributed to residential use," Enright said.

The EPA website also says that the registrants of chlorpyrifos voluntarily entered into an agreement with EPA to "eliminate, phase out, and modify" certain household uses of the chemical.

The agency's action taken in 2000 eliminated most household uses, excluding ant and roach baits in child resistant packaging, and fire ant mound treatments. The agreement also phased out all termiticide uses of the chemical. 

Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, submitted testimony in favor of the bill, citing instances when local children fell ill due to pesticide use.

"Pesticides also waft over school communities and sicken our students, after being sprayed on windy days," Rosenlee said in her testimony.

"In 2007, for example, nearly a dozen students at Kahuku High and Intermediate fell ill when a nearby farmer ignored windy weather while applying restricted use pesticides," Rosenlee said in her statement. "In 2008, in Waimea on Kauai, dozens of students got sick after farmers applied pesticides on a nearby seed corn plot."

"Establishing buffer zones around school campuses, then, is an imperative step toward eliminating this unnecessary threat to our children’s safety," Rosenlee said.

The law goes into effect in January, but businesses can request exemptions from the Department of Agriculture for up to three years in order to adjust.

"In my view passage of SB 3095 is one of the highlights of our 2018 session," said Sen. Mike Gabbard.  "After many years of no action it was good for the Legislature and community to come together."

Commercial farmers previously opposed the bill, saying pesticide use is already strictly regulated and that they voluntary establish buffer zone when spraying near schools.

"To me the even bigger part of this bill is the disclosure of what's used because we can finally begin to have scientific analysis of the health effects that correlate with these chemicals," said Sen. Russell Ruderman, a co-author of the bill.