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California to phase out use of toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos

Dow markets chlorpyrifos under the brand name Lorsban.

The use of a dangerous pesticide will soon be phased out in California. The California Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) will start the process to cancel the registration of the pesticide chlorpyrifos.

The CalEPA says scientific findings confirm that chlorpyrifos poses “serious public health and environmental risks,” especially to vulnerable communities like farmworkers, who work with and often live near crops treated with chlorpyrifos. The state environmental agency also points out there is money earmarked in the governor’s May revision budget to support the move to safer and more sustainable products.

“The reason for that is chlorpyrifos was determined to be a toxic air contaminant, and the scientific review panel could not determine adequate mitigations, under that designation,” said Martin Settevendemie, San Luis Obispo County’s Agricultural Commissioner.

Settevendemie said phasing out of chlorpyrifos won’t affect growers and crops in San Luis Obispo County too much. Use of the pesticide has declined over recent years because growers who used chlorpyrifos were penalized.

“Many of the growers in San Luis Obispo County have decided not to use that product,” Settevendemie said. “So just to give you an example, in 2018 only 55 acres of [agricultural] land was treated with chlorpyrifos. And in 2019—to date—only 15 acres have been applied.”

Settevendemie said it will likely take about two years before all use of the pesticide is stopped completely. The U.S. EPA banned the use of chlorpyrifos for home use in 2001. But it was still allowed to be used on crops like cotton, almonds, citrus, strawberries and grapes. EPA scientists recommended a total ban on the product, but the Trump Administration reversed that course. The pesticide is produced by Dow Chemicals.

Pesticide reform groups in the Salinas Valley, like the Californians for Pesticide Reform and Safe Ag Safe Schools, celebrating the news, saying Dow’s “cheap and devastating nerve gas” is the first pesticide to be banned in the state.

The CalEPA echoed Settevendemie’s statement that use of chlorpyrifos has been declining over the past decade.

“Use of the pesticide dropped more than 50 percent from two million pounds in 2005 to just over 900,000 pounds in 2016,” according to the agency.

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