California bans widely-used pesticide linked to brain damage in children

A widely-used agricultural pesticide that California environmental officials have said has been linked to brain damage in children will be banned after next year under an agreement reached with the manufacturer, state officials announced Wednesday.

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Virtually of all use of chlorpyrifos in the state will cease on Feb. 6, 2020 following an agreement between the Department of Pesticide Regulation and pesticide manufacturers to withdraw their products, the California Environmental Protection Agency said.

The pesticide is used on numerous crops in the nation’s largest agriculture-producing state — including alfalfa, almonds, citrus, cotton, grapes and walnuts.

Under the agreement, farmers will have until the end of 2020 to exhaust their supplies as they will no longer be allowed to possess or use chlorpyrifos products in California after Dec. 31.

FILE - In this May 13, 2004, file photo, worker Roberto Rosiles picks fruit at a Sand Hills Farms orchard in Arvin, Calif. Rosiles was one of about 140 workers who were told by supervisors to flee the orchard after pesticide fumes from an adjacent fi

Until then, all uses must comply with existing restrictions, including a ban on aerial spraying, quarter-mile buffer zones and limiting use to crop-pest combinations that lack alternatives, according to the CEPA who added DPR will support aggressive enforcement of these restrictions.

California Governor Gavin Newsom says the move marks a big win for children, workers and public health in California.

“For years, environmental justice advocates have fought to get the harmful pesticide chlorpyrifos out of our communities,” said Newsom.

Prior to the announcement, DPR gave utterance that it was pursuing the ban of the pesticide following “mounting evidence” that the pesticide is linked with serious health defects in children, including brain impairment, and to illnesses in others with compromised immune systems.

“The swift end to the sale of chlorpyrifos protects vulnerable communities by taking a harmful pesticide off the market,” said California Secretary for Environmental Protection Jared Blumenfeld. “This agreement avoids a protracted legal process while providing a clear timeline for California farmers as we look toward developing alternative pest management practices."

To ensure consistency for famers, officials say DPR and the California Department of Food and Agriculure have established a cross-sector working group to identify, evaluate and recommend safer and more sustainable pest management alternatives to chlorpyrifos.

The development of chlorpyrifos alternatives are being supported through the current state budget, which appropriates more than $5 million in grant funding, officials say.

The president of the California Citrus Association, which represents about 5,000 growers, said in an interview that he believes the risks were not as great as the state made them out to be.

“We really thought the exposure assessments and risks were just inflated and it wasn’t a true characterization of the protections that were already in place,” said Casey Creamer.

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Though Creamer commended officals for allocating $5.6 million to help pesticide manufacturers develop a safer alternative.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.