California Will Ban Pesticide Because Of Effects On Children
KPBS Midday Edition Segments / May 13, 2019
California has announced it will ban a pesticide heavily used on citrus and almonds because of its neurological effects on infants and children.
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Speaker 1: 00:00 On Wednesday, California announced plans to ban the widely used pesticide clear, pure Pfos. That chemical has been linked to neurological problems in infants and children. State health official said their decision was prompted by growing evidence that core pyrophosphates, which is used on crops such as oranges, grapes and almonds causes serious health effects in children and other sensitive populations at lower levels of exposure than previously understood. Brady Dennis is an environmental and health reporter for the Washington Post. He's been covering this development and joins us with more. Brady. Welcome. Hi, how are you? Just find thanks. So tell us more about core pyrophosphate. What is it? Who uses it and um, and what does it do?
Speaker 2: 00:43 Sure. This is a widely used, as you said, pesticide that is, uh, you know, in California alone is used on I think about 60 crops, everything from oranges to grapes to almonds and, um, it's a pesticide is meant to kill certain kinds of pests. Um, and it has been used for decades, uh, probably half a century or so, uh, in different uses around, around the US. How widely used is that a, well, I think a couple of years ago in 2000 as recently as 2016, uh, you know, the, the EPA estimated that about five to 8 million pounds of this was applied, uh, on crops nationwide. Uh, so it's, it's, uh, exclusively an agricultural product. Now, there was a time in the past when people used it in their house, you know, for, um, to kill cockroaches and, and other things like that. But that was the, those kinds of uses were banned, um, in 2000, so about 20 years ago now. And it's primarily used as an agricultural pesticide.
Speaker 1: 01:45 So do California farmers use a lot of the pesticide? You know, we certainly grow the crops it's used on.
Speaker 2: 01:52 Yeah. I mean they use more than any other state in the nation. And that's not to say that they use it and higher percentages, but you know, California's such a large state was such a huge agricultural industry that this is, um, you know, this is one of the commonly used tools there to, to treat crops. So having, um, the state ban, this particular pesticide is, is a huge blow to the, to the company that produces it. And many farmers would say, uh, takes away a tool that, uh, they really need to fight the fight pests that can kill crops. Um, and on the other hand, you know, it's, it's a pesticide that environmental groups, health groups have said needs to no longer be on the market for health reasons. Do you know what other states have banned it? Yes. So recently, so last year, Hawaii became the first state to ban a core, purify us, although that, that band doesn't take effect until 2022, uh, New York, uh, lawmakers in New York recently approved legislation that would ban corporate or fos, and I think that would be set to take effect in 2021 and a handful of other states.
Speaker 2: 02:54 Um, Oregon, Connecticut, I think New Jersey are also taking look at, um, taking this pesticide off the market. So these bands haven't taken effect yet. And I think California's, uh, would take a couple of years as well. Uh, but more and more states are moving that direction. And what does the EPA say about Claire Pyrophosphate? Its, its stance on this, this pesticide is changed since the Obama administration, right? Yeah. It's got this interesting history. You know, as I, as I mentioned, you know, the EPA supported taking this off the market, banding it for indoor uses and residential uses a back 20 years ago. And there's been other changes along the way a couple of years after that. Um, it endorsed label changes that would, that were aimed at protecting, protecting the workers that apply these and fields and protecting wildlife, you know, putting in place like buffer zones where it could be sprayed and making sure workers were protective equipment.
Speaker 2: 03:48 But you know, there's, there's been an evolution and ongoing push to ban this product completely over the health concerns. And, uh, in 2015, the Obama administration had proposed revoking all the uses of core pure Pfos on food. Um, but that didn't get finalized before the Obama Administration left office. And, uh, uh, president Trump's first EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, uh, you declined to ban the pesticide and said that the evidence, uh, wasn't strong enough to endorse that band and sort of left the door open. So that's, that's where we are now that the fight continues on that and Claire Purifies is made by Dow chemical. What's been their response to all this? I mean, their response has, uh, you know, essentially been that this is a well studied, uh, decide, uh, I think when, when we wrote the other day about California's plan to ban this, they said, you know, that, that there had been some 4,000 studies examining, uh, this product in terms of health and safety and in the VR environment and that it was for the uses that it's approved for.
Speaker 2: 04:53 They thought it was still an important tool for farmers to have, um, and that it's well regulated, uh, and so that it should be able to stay on the market. And they said pretty clearly they're going to, you know, look for ways to challenge this proposal in California and I, and I assume elsewhere as well. And how are those environmental groups who have been working to get rid of this pesticide for years responding? I mean, they're thrilled by what California did last week and Hawaii and other states are doing. Uh, but I think the people who have really spent a lot of time and effort trying to get this pesticide band, you know, really want a federal ban, a nationwide ban that would make this, uh, the case across all states. Just as you know, the company wants, uh, the federal government not to be on it and states to, to allow it to remain on the market. But I think environmental groups, you know, they, they praise California and govern Newsome for that, but I think they're still pushing for the EPA itself. Um, uh, to make the band national and again, Woodenville California's take place.
Speaker 2: 05:58 Um, I think California's ban takes about two years to take place, if I remember correctly. So that would put us, uh, also in about 2021. So you would see this wave of states, uh, of the band taking effect in states, probably in 20, 21, 20, 22 something like something like that. And I should say also that a, that a federal court and you know, this has wound up in federal court and that the court has ordered the EPA to make a final decision on this, this coming summer. So you could get a, a decision either way on that, uh, in, in a, in just a couple of months time.
Speaker 1: 06:30 And that's, you know, when you mentioned court, and I was going to ask, especially since these environmental groups are, are thrilled to see this action take place, but isn't enough. I mean, has the damage been done and are there lawsuits?
Speaker 2: 06:41 There are any number of lawsuits, uh, you know, state, federal, uh, but I think, I think all eyes are kind of on the federal courts because, uh, at least for the folks who want this pesticide, a band, you know, the, the most thorough and, um, far ranging way to do that is to force the federal government to do that in every state. Um, so I, I don't think, I think we'll see that fight go on for some time.
Speaker 1: 07:09 I've been speaking with Brady, Dennis, and environmental and health reporter for the Washington Post. Brady, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you.
Speaker 3: 07:19 [inaudible].