Maui News

Hirono Joins Colleagues, Call on EPA to Ban Chlorpyrifos

August 8, 2019, 9:22 AM HST
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Earlier this week, Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaiʻi), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and 13 of their U.S. Senate colleagues sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler urging him to reconsider the decision not to ban chlorpyrifos.

The group calls chlorpyrifos “a toxic pesticide” and says it is “linked to brain damage in children and known to cause serious harm to human health.”

In the letter, the Senators ask the EPA to reverse its decision and place a ban on chlorpyrifos “immediately in the interest of protecting public health.”

“The EPA has repeatedly found that chlorpyrifos harms children’s brains at exposures far lower than what the EPA allows. Nevertheless, it refuses to ban this pesticide supposedly because the agency is currently unable to pinpoint the precise exposures that cause this harm,” the Senators wrote. “Additionally, the EPA’s rejection of the petition to ban chlorpyrifos has been accompanied by a new argument in which the EPA contends that the prohibition on allowing a pesticide to be on our food in the absence of an affirmative EPA safety finding does not apply to its action on public petitions. The EPA apparently now seeks to cast aside public input from its work to protect public health.”

“Additionally, chlorpyrifos threatens agricultural workers who apply the pesticide. Farm workers are exposed to chlorpyrifos from mixing, handling, and applying the pesticide, as well as from entering fields where chlorpyrifos was recently sprayed. Chlorpyrifos is one of the pesticides most often linked to acute pesticide poisonings, and in many States that monitor pesticide poisonings, it is regularly identified among the five pesticides linked to the highest number of pesticide poisoning incidents. This is significant given widespread under-reporting of pesticide poisonings due to such factors as inadequate reporting systems, fear of retaliation from employers, and reluctance to seek medical treatment,” the Senators continued.

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“The EPA’s decision to reject the petition to ban chlorpyrifos is deeply concerning. It simply makes no sense from a public health or legal perspective for EPA to continue to resist taking action that would protect children’s brains. If you fail to reverse this decision, more children, farmworkers and American families will be exposed to this pesticide and they will suffer as a result,” the Senators concluded.

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The senators say that despite a petition in July to ban chlorpyrifos, the EPA announced it would not ban the chemical, but rather would monitor the safety of chlorpyrifos through 2020.

In addition to sending the letter, Senator Hirono is also a cosponsor of S. 921, the Protect Children, Farmers, and Farmworkers from Nerve Agent Pesticides Act of 2019, which would prohibit the use of chlorpyrifos on food. Also, last year Hawaiʻi became the first state to pass a law banning the use of chlorpyrifos.

Joining Senators Hirono and Udall on the letter are U.S. Senators Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.).

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