Getting the worst pesticides off the market is an on-going effort. Ideally, all safety tests would be ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and completed prior to registration. In reality, most pesticides undergo limited testing prior to being authorized for sale. Long-term effects, such as cancer or developmental harms, are often not understood until years after the chemical has been on the market and making its way into our water and bodies.
When we do figure out that a pesticide is harming human health, we need to take it off the market. Right now in Oregon, we have that chance with House Bill 3058 and Senate Bill 853. Just introduced into the Oregon Legislature with assistance from the Oregon Pollinator Protection Alliance, HB 3058 and SB 853 would prohibit the use and sale of a pesticide called chlorpyrifos in Oregon.
Chlorpyrifos is a Big Problem
Sold under various trade names (Lorsban, Dursban and others), chlorpyrifos is used to kill insects and mites in many grains, vegetables, nuts, fruit (and in non-food crops such as Christmas trees and nursery crops). Apples, corn, strawberries, and broccoli are some of the common foods we eat that are frequently treated with chlorpyrifos.
According to EPA’s 2016 risk assessment, chlorpyrifos damages the developing brains of children, causing delays in mental development in babies and toddlers, attention problems and autism spectrum disorder in early childhood, and intelligence diminishment in school age children who were exposed to chlorpyrifos during gestation. Prenatal exposure to very low chlorpyrifos levels can harm babies permanently.
Chlorpyrifos also is found on our food at dangerous levels. According to EPA’s 2016 risk assessment, we are all consuming much more chlorpyifos than any level EPA deems safe. Children ages one to two are exposed to levels of chlorpyrifos in food 140 times what EPA deems safe.
Chlorpyrifos is extremely harmful to the farm and field workers who grow our food, who get inhalation exposures as they work. Finally, chlorpyrifos gets into our streams and is threatening our already highly diminished endangered and threatened salmon and steelhead. In 2017, the National Marine Fisheries Service determined that this chemical jeopardizes the survival and recovery of all listed salmon and steelhead in Oregon, Washington and California. Orca whales in Washington are also jeopardized by chlorpyrifos.
The EPA was reportedly ready to ban this insecticide, recognizing the harm. Then, President Trump appointed Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA and the ban was set aside. The New York Times reports that the chemical’s manufacturer conducted heavy lobbying prior to the reversal of EPA’s decision.
Protections for Pollinators
This bill would also make the neonicotinoid class of pesticides “restricted use,” meaning that people who don’t have an Oregon license to apply pesticides wouldn’t be able to buy and use these chemicals. Neonicotinoids are a class of pesticides that are highly persistent, highly toxic to bees, beneficial insects and aquatic invertebrates, and highly soluble.
We support the move to make neonicotinoids restricted use in Oregon. Requiring a license guarantees that the person using a pesticide has had the benefit of training and can pass a test demonstrating knowledge about basic pesticide safety practices. Licensed applicators need to get continuing education to keep up with the latest science and rules. Anyone who wants to use a pesticide, especially those known to be as dangerous as neonics, should have an applicator license.
Join Us in Helping Pass This Law
Please call your legislator and let them know we need this bill to protect Oregon children, farm workers, farmers, and streams.
Want to learn more about chlorpyrifos? See: https://earthjustice.org/features/what-you-need-to-know-about-chlorpyrifos