(CN) – California cinched a deal Wednesday with pesticide manufacturers to remove one of the mostly widely used insecticides believed to contribute to brain damage in children from the market in 2020.
The Department of Pesticide Regulation reached an agreement with several pesticide makers that will end virtually all use of chlorpyrifos in California, as producers have agreed to stop selling to growers in California as of Feb. 6 of next year.
“For years, environmental justice advocates have fought to get the harmful pesticide chlorpyrifos out of our communities,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said. “Thanks to their tenacity and the work of countless others, this will now occur faster than originally envisioned. This is a big win for children, workers and public health in California.”
Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxin that can cause developmental problems in children exposed to it, according to several scientific studies, making children living in agricultural communities and the sons and daughters of farm workers particularly susceptible.
There is a pending suit in the Ninth Circuit brought by several farm worker advocate organizations, as well as environmental organizations attempting to force the EPA to institute a nationwide ban.
The agency appeared to be on the verge of banning it in 2016 after its own scientists corroborated studies performed at universities regarding the considerable public health implications of its continued use. However, after the election of Donald Trump, the EPA reversed course, saying more studies were needed before a final determination could be made.
In the meantime, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation banned the pesticide in May. The state was bracing for a protracted legal battle with Dow AgroSciences and other manufacturers, but Wednesday’s deal means chlorpyrifos will no longer be sold come February.
Farmers will not be allowed to possess chlorpyrifos in its spray form after Dec. 31, 2020.
The deal allows for the use of chlorpyrifos in its granular form, but regulators say such use accounts for less than one percent of the overall pesticide application and presents no adverse public health effects.
“This agreement avoids a protracted legal process while providing a clear timeline for California farmers as we look toward developing alternative pest management practices,” said California Secretary for Environmental Protection Jared Blumenfeld.
The deal also includes state investment in the form of grants into research to find alternative pest management practices. The pesticide department will distribute $2.1 million worth of grants to fund projects that seek to manage pests in a more sustainable manner. The California Department of Food and Agriculture will likewise contribute $2 million in grants in an effort to publicize integrated biological farming methods that reduce dependence on chemical pesticides. California is the largest producer of food in the United States, and the fifth largest in the world. California’s farmers have been incrementally weaning themselves off of chlorpyrifos as more scientific evidence has emerged regarding its potential to harm children.
In 2005, more than 2 million pounds of chlorpyrifos were dropped onto the fields of the Golden State. By 2017, that number was more than halved, with 900,000 pounds of application throughout California.
By 2020, that number will be whittled to virtually nil.