ALBANY, New York, December 11, 2019 (ENS) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Tuesday directed the state Department of Environmental Conservation, DEC, to take immediate action to ban aerial use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. New restrictions on the toxic substance will protect New Yorkers, especially children, from adverse health impacts.

The DEC will have regulations in place to ban chlorpyrifos for all uses, except spraying apple tree trunks, by December 2020. Chlorpyrifos will be banned for all uses by July 2021.

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Fruits and vegetables displayed by a market in Brooklyn, New York, October 27, 2013 (Photo by torbakhopper)

“Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide that has the potential to cause serious health problems in people who ingest it,” Governor Cuomo said. “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.”

While organophosphate pesticide chlorpyrifos has been banned for residential use since 2001, it is still currently approved for use in 50 different products, the majority of which are registered for use in agricultural production.

The largest agricultural market for chlorpyrifos in terms of total pounds of the active ingredient is corn. It is also used on soybeans, fruit and nut trees, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower, seed treatments, as well as other row crops.

Non-agricultural uses include golf courses, turf, greenhouses, and non-structural wood treatments such as utility poles and fence posts.

Scientific research has shown that chlorpyrifos can harm the development of the nervous systems of infants and young children. Prenatal exposure to organophosphates can result in diminished cognitive ability, delays in motor development and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, ADHD.

In response to Governor Cuomo’s order to ban chlorpyrifos, Peter Lehner, managing attorney for Sustainable Food and Farming at the public interest environmental law firm Earthjustice, said, “We appreciate Governor Cuomo’s promise that DEC will ban all uses of chlorpyrifos by July 2021. This dangerous pesticide harms our children, farmworkers, and communities.”

“The science is clear and beyond dispute,” said Lehner. “New York must ban chlorpyrifos to protect public health.”

“We also applaud Senator Kaminsky and Assemblyman Englebright for their leadership in sponsoring the bill, passed by the legislature last April, that would have banned chlorpyrifos in New York and has led to today’s action,” Lehner said. “Unfortunately, the Governor is relying instead on a regulatory process. We will monitor DEC’s actions closely to make sure there is no delay in the agency’s fulfilling the governor’s promise to New Yorkers.”

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Gallon jug of chlorpyrifos, (Photo credit unknown)

Adapted from World War II-era nerve gases, chlorpyrifos was banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from use in household products, like roach sprays, nearly two decades ago, but it is still widely used on many U.S. food crops, including apples, oranges, and strawberries.

Chlorpyrifos is in some cases the only product available labeled for use against certain pests. It is particularly effective against the American plum borer and rosy apple aphid. Chlorpyrifos can also be used in rotation with other methods of pest management, such as treated seeds, as a means to manage pesticide resistance.

As New York and nearby states are infiltrated by invasive species, such as the black stem borer, pest management tools are needed to prevent their spread and the resulting damage.

The application of pesticides must be done in a manner that is protective of public health and the environment and New York State is one of a few states in the country with a regulatory program designed specifically to review and register pesticides, implement regulatory controls, and enforce worker protection standards.

State law affords the DEC a broad range of regulatory powers including the ability to restrict the use of a pesticide to certain crops, limit the application to specific conditions, and revocation of a product’s registration.

Chlorpyrifos was patented in 1966 by Dow Chemical Company, which stands by its safety, saying in 2017, “Chlorpyrifos is, in fact, one of the most widely used and thoroughly studied pest control products in the world, supported by more than 4,000 studies examining chlorpyrifos in terms of health, safety, and the environment. It is approved not only for use in the U.S. but nearly 100 countries.”

But the number of those countries is shrinking. In a regulatory committee vote on December 6, the European Union decided to ban sales of chlorpyrifos after January 31, 2020.

The move came after the European Food Safety Authority said in August that no safe exposure level exists for chlorpyrifos.

The prohibition will hit Corteva Agriscience, Adama Agriculture BV, and Sapec Agro SA, which applied for reapproval of chlorpyrifos.

“This decision denies EU growers access to yet another key tool to protect their crops,” said Corteva spokesman József Máté in an email to Bloomberg Environment. Corteva sells chlorpyrifos under the Lorsban brand name.

And in the United States, New York is not the first state to ban the pesticide.

On October 9, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation announced that virtually all use of chlorpyrifos in the state by the end of 2020, following years of pressure from public health, farmworker and community groups. Sales will cease in February 2020, but use will be allowed until December 31, 2020.

California uses approximately 20 percent of all chlorpyrifos used in the United States, and more than any other state.

Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, senior scientist at the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council said, “This is a landmark victory for the health of California’s farmworkers, rural families and children across the country. Chlorpyrifos poisons the people who live and work in agricultural communities, and threatens the brain development of children everywhere who eat the fruits and vegetables grown with it.”

“While the Trump administration relentlessly fights to keep it legal, California is taking a stand and saying it has no place in our fields or on our food,” said Rotkin-Ellman. “We will continue to push EPA [the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] to extend these protections beyond California’s borders to people nationwide.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2019. All rights reserved.