California has started the process of banning the pesticide chlorpyrifos in the state, sending notices to companies to cancel product registrations, after the Trump administration failed to take action on the federal level in the face of mounting evidence about the risk of chlorpyrifos birth defects and other side effects.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced the move in a press release issued on August 14, which indicates that the agency has formed an Alternatives to Chlorpyrifos Work Group, which seeks to provide safe alternatives to the pesticide.
The press release also indicates that the state is sending notices to cancel chlorpyrifos product registrations, saying that the pesticide’s side effects are detrimental to human health. The press release indicates the registrants have 15 days to request a hearing on the issue.
Manufactured by Dow Chemical, chlorpyrifos was first put into use in 1965. It was banned in household settings in 2001, due to the health risks. However, it is still used on more than 40,000 farms nationally for 50 different types of crops, including grapes and almonds. It has been sold under a variety of brand names, including Dursban and Lorsban, as well as Scout, Empire, Eradex, and Warhawk.
In a study published in 2014, chlorpyrifos was added to a list of 11 chemicals identified as developmental neurotoxins, with widespread damaging affects to developing brains and reducing intelligence. Researchers indicated chlorpyrifos, along with other chemicals, may cause neurodevelopmental disabilities in children, including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia.
California’s decision to ban chlorpyrifos comes after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency refused to take action last month, issuing a pre-publication notice which announced it was denying objections to plans to allow the pesticide to stay on the market.
However, California already announced its intentions to ban the pesticide in May and began restricting chlorpyrifos use in January 2019, after determining it was a toxic air contaminant.
“Identifying viable alternatives to chlorpyrifos – and developing safer pest management tools – is critically important but challenging work,” acting director of DPR Val Dolcini said in the press release. “We look forward to collaborating with the members of the Work Group and others on safer tools, solutions, and pest management practices that make sense for all Californians.”
Experts say if California bans the chemical, it may start a cascade effect, since it is the most populous state in the country, the largest agricultural state, and it has been known to be at the vanguard of environmental policies that often become national.
Several bills have been introduced to ban or restrict chlorpyrifos by Democrats in Congress at the national level as well, but those bills are not likely to move forward with the parties controlling one chamber each.