Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Hawaii Becomes First State to Ban Popular Pesticide

Hawaii became the first state Wednesday to ban a dangerous pesticide that is said to cause disabilities and behavioral problems in children.

(CN) — Hawaii became the first state Wednesday to ban a dangerous pesticide that is said to cause disabilities and behavioral problems in children.

Gov. David Ige signed into law a bill that the Legislature had passed earlier in its session. The new law bans the distribution, sale, transport and use of any pesticide containing chlorpyrifos as an active ingredient. The law takes effect Oct. 1, 2018.

This year’s Legislature has been aggressive toward pesticide use. Lawmakers took up eight bills that address pesticide use, such as increasing funding for fighting illegal pesticide use, banning or restricting certain pesticides and limiting pesticide use within 100 feet of a school.

Chlorpyrifos is a restricted-use pesticide in Hawaii and the most widely used conventional insecticide in the United States, according to the state. In November 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency released a revised human health risk assessment for chlorpyrifos, stating that “there are no safe uses of chlorpyrifos.”

The EPA has already found that food and drinking water exposure to chlorpyrifos exceeds safe levels, pesticide drift reaches unsafe levels 300 feet from its application and is acutely toxic and associated with neurodevelopmental harm in children.

The EPA says field workers are allowed to re-enter fields within one to five days after spraying of chlorpyrifos, but unsafe exposure may continue up to 18 days after applications.

The EPA found that chlorpyrifos can overstimulate the nervous system, causing nausea, dizziness, confusion and respiratory paralysis or death at high exposure rates.

Extensive scientific studies show that exposing children or pregnant women to chlorpyrifos in even small amounts may cause developmental delays, permanently reduced cognitive capacity, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities.

Despite widely available science regarding the dangers of chlorpyrifos, the Trump administration loosened restrictions on use of the pesticide.

In response to a petition by advocacy groups, the EPA under the Obama administration twice issued proposals to ban the chemical.

However, the agency did not finalize the ban on chlorpyrifos, and in March 2017, it announced it would formally postpone action on the use of chlorpyrifos on food-grade products and instead study the effects of the pesticide through 2022.

In 2016, 10 workers from a West Kauai farm were taken to the hospital after exposure to the chemical. Chlorpyrifos has also been found in the air at Waimea Canyon Middle School, in the water in the Kekaha ditch and in streams in Hawaii County.

“Despite the failure of the Environmental Protection Agency to ban chlorpyrifos, the legislature finds that it must take action to eliminate the health risks posed by the use of chlorpyrifos by prohibiting its use within the State,” the bill states.

“Hawaii is showing the Trump administration that the states will stand up for our kids, even when Washington will not,” said Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, a senior scientist at Natural Resources Defense Council. “Scott Pruitt is doing everything he can to keep this pesticide on the market, benefiting the administration’s friends at Dow Chemical despite his own agency’s warning that it is toxic to children’s brains,”

Hawaii is the first state to ban chlorpyrifos, but more states are likely to follow its lead. In New York, a bill to ban chlorpyrifos use passed the Assembly and is making its way through the state Senate.

Groups like the Hawaii Center for Food SafetyHawaii Alliance for Progressive ActionPesticide Action Network and Hawai'i SEED have been pushing to get the chemical banned.

Another bill became law earlier this year and requires certain pesticides be banned in school areas. It takes effect Jan. 1, 2019.

Sylvia Wu, an attorney for Center for Food Safety, said Hawaii is taking a strong lead in human safety.

“The Hawai'i State Legislature is acknowledging that it must protect its residents from the harmful effects of agricultural pesticide use,” Wu said in a statement.

Categories / Environment, Government, Law

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.