California Agency Proposes New Interim Restrictions on Use of Toxic Pesticide Chlorpyrifos

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The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has issued proposed interim restrictions on the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. The pesticide is implicated in a number of human illnesses including neurological harm to babies’ brains. The new restrictions are meant to increase protection from potential exposure to the pesticide while the DPR determines a formalregulatory procedure to include chlorpyrifos in the list of toxic aircontaminants as well as the permanent restrictions on its use.

DPR is recommending January 1, 2019, as their implementation date of the interim measures by the county agricultural commissioners.

DPR Director Brian Leahy said that for years the agency has been working with growers to find alternatives to chlorpyrifos. Inthe meantime, the interim measures are part of the agency’s efforts to protect theenvironment and human health.

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The interim measures that cover the application method and the notice of intent include the following:

1. Some of the restrictions on the application method

  • No aerial applications of chlorpyrifos.  Applications must not above 4 feet aboveground and within the wind speed of 3 to 10 mph.
  • The use of chlorpyrifos will be restricted to “critical uses” only. “Critical uses” means that the University of California Cooperative Extension has determined that there are few or no alternative pesticides.

  • Pesticide applications require a buffer zone of a quarter-mile or 1320 feet. If the buffer zoneextends into adjacent property, a written permission is required from the owner or operator of the property. The written permission should also specify that theywill be out of the buffer during the required period during and after thepesticide application.  
  • Restrictions for airblast, chemigation and granular applications.  
Dangerous Chemical hazard

2. Notice of intent.
            A notice of intent (NOI) must be submitted to the county agricultural commissioner (CAC) at least 24 hours before the application. The NOI shouldinclude the time of application, the map showing the area of application and the buffer zone, permission that the buffer zone can extend into other properties and other documents required.

            The DPR has released a complete list of recommended restrictions on chlorpyrifos in  products used as agricultural inputs.

The pesticide manufactured by Dow Chemical Co. which is used against pests in about 60 agricultural crops, including grapes, asparagus,almonds, alfalfa, cotton and oranges — has been strongly criticized bylawmakers, regulators and the courts.  Gradually, growers began using saferalternatives. According to the DPR, in 2016, the use of chlorpyrifos has dropped by over 50 percent to 900,000+pounds from two million pounds in 2005.  

The DPR designated chlorpyrifos as a restricted material in California in 2015. A product containing a restricted material can only be used by licensed professionals who have been issued permits by the local county agricultural commissioner.  Then, in 2017, chlorpyrifos was listed under Proposition 65 as a substance that can cause reproductive harm.

In September 2018, the DPR proposed that chlorpyrifos is designated as a toxic air contaminant after extensive scientific review and public comment. Under California law, an air pollutant is a substance that can increase cases of serious illness or death as well as a present or potential danger to human health. The 45-day period for publiccomments on the proposed designation ended on Nov. 9.

There have been various reports about illnesses caused by exposure to chlorpyrifos. In recent years, farmworkers in California became sick after exposure to the airborne pesticide. 

Last year, over three dozen cabbage farmworkers in Kern County became sick from exposure to the pesticide that driftedfrom nearby farms. Some workers complained of nausea, vomiting and had to seek medical treatment.     

This year, at least 13 people were affected, mostly workers in Solano County, where the pesticide was used in an almond orchard.

California’s DPR recommends that county agriculture commissioners implement the newly- issued requirements in January when they issue permits for pesticide application. Another DPR recommendation is to limit the use of chlorpyrifos to certain crops and pestsonly.

The DPR is required to discuss with other state and local agencies the permanent regulatory measures needed after chlorpyrifos has been designated as a toxic air contaminant. The state and local agencies include the CACs, California Air Resources Board, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and local air districts. Establishing the regulatory measures may need up to two years to complete.

About Jack Schatz

Jack Schatz began writing about Proposition 65 and other U.S. environmental laws in 1994. He has also written extensively about Consumer Product safety and product liability issues as well. He is the publisher and co-author of the 2013 and 2017 and upcoming 2020 editions of the Proposition 65 Handbook.He was graduated by the San Diego State School of Journalism.
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