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Daily News Blog

11
Dec

European Union Bans Brain-Damaging Insecticide Chlorpyrifos; NY Governor Bans Aerial Application and Proposes Phase-Out of All Uses

(Beyond Pesticides, December 11, 2019) Last week, the European Union voted to ban the neurotoxic insecticides chlorpyrifos and chorpyrifos-methyl from use beginning February 1, 2020.

Yesterday, the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo vetoed a statutory chlorpyrifos ban and issued an immediate ban on aerial application, and proposed a regulatory phase-out that bans all uses by December 2020, except use on apple tree trunks by July 21. The proposal is subject to a public comment period. 

The European Union regulatory committee decided not to renew approvals following a European Food Safety Authority (ESFA) analysis, released in August, that there is no safe exposure level for chlorpyrifos. The decision to protect the public in EU differs from the trajectory of the United States, where individual states are having to step up to act in lieu of an independent, science-based federal regulatory system.

Chlorpyrifos damages fetal brains and produces cognitive and behavioral dysfunctions, particularly in children. Prenatal and early life exposure to chlorpyrifos is linked to lower birth weight and neurodevelopmental harms, including reduced IQ, loss of working memory, attention disorders, and delayed motor development. Farmworkers are at heightened risk of acute exposure effects of the chemical (including accidents and spills), which can cause respiratory paralysis and even death.

Angeliki Lyssimachou, science policy officer at Pesticide Action Network Europe, said the getting this ban passed was no small feat as, “It took an overwhelming amount of evidence — showing that chlorpyrifos insecticides may cause brain toxicity in children — for the European Commission to propose a ban.”

European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, tweeted a “welcome” to the news about the “two dangerous pesticides,” saying, “Protecting the health of #EU citizens is my top priority.”

The European Commission stated, “A short period of grace for final storage, disposal and use (maximum 3 months) may be granted by EU countries. After that, such plant protection products can no longer be placed on the market or used in the EU.” The commission is also drafting a proposal to, “lower the Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) of chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl in food and feed to the lowest level that can be measured by analytical laboratories.”

While the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined nearly 20 years ago that the chemical should not be used in residential areas, it maintained uses on food crops, where even low levels of residues on food can end up harming children’s health (See a U.S. timeline here).  Given the current administration and its EPA actions, states have been pursuing bans and other constraining actions: Hawai’i banned chlorpyrifos more than a year ago, and New York and California followed suit in spring 2019. 

This July, EPA rejected data that supported opposition to the use of chlorpyrifos as “not sufficiently valid, complete or reliable.” Environmental groups were quick to litigate but remain in the tangle of the U.S. legal system as the use of this toxic pesticide continues.

After sustained campaigning by environmental groups, Governor Cuomo took action, stating, “Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide that has the potential to cause serious health problems in people who ingest it. I am directing the state department of environmental conservation to ban the use of this toxic substance to help ensure New York families aren’t needlessly exposed to a dangerous chemical.”

Bloomberg Environment reports, “The governor’s action appears to adopt the legislation’s approach, but on a faster timeline and with opportunity for public comment on the terms.” Instead of taking on the chemical by “legislative decree,” Cuomo is utilizing an established state regulatory system with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

The U.S. public can work to ban chlorpyrifos by contacting federal and state senators and representatives, as well as governors, to support legislation and regulation to prohibit use of this insecticide. Consumers can also oppose the use of the compound by purchasing organic whenever possible, thus supporting an agricultural system that does not rely on toxic chemicals. Learn more about chlorpyrifos impacts and developments by visiting the Beyond Pesticides Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database and its factsheet, Children and Pesticides Don’t Mix (a chronicle of peer-reviewed scientific literature on the health effects of pesticides).

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

Sources: Bloomberg, Agri-Pulse, Bloomberg (re. NY)

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  • Archives

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