In This Issue

State Panel Orders a Do-over for Chlorpyrifos Risk Assessment

TAKE ACTION: Suspend Chlorpyrifos Now!

New Restrictions on Ag Pesticide Use Near Schools and Daycares Take Effect

Caught in the Drift: Stories from the frontlines

State Panel Orders a Do-over for Brain-Harming Chlorpyrifos Risk Assessment
DPR's Risk Assessment fails to address neurodevelopmental harm, Scientific Review Panel finds

Five months after the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) issued its weak and inadequate draft Risk Assessment for the brain-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos, a group of independent scientists that make up the state's Scientific Review Panel (SRP) ordered DPR back to the drawing board to produce a much stronger draft that properly considers the risk of harm to the developing brain. 

A contingent of fifteen CPR members from as far away as Ventura, Kern, and Tulare was on hand in January to cheer the panel's decision. The presence of community members from California's farmworking communities ensured that the often-esoteric substance of the hearing was firmly grounded in the lived reality of the people affected by decisions made in Sacramento.

"We're hopeful that DPR's next draft will lead to meaningful restrictions on the use of chlorpyrifos in California," said CPR Co-director Mark Weller. "In the meantime, we're calling on the state to suspend it immediately while they continue to examine the science. We know enough already to take decisive action now."

Chlorpyrifos became California's problem after US EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed a proposed federal ban last March.  DPR's highly anticipated but hugely disappointing draft risk assessment for chlorpyrifos was released in August and revised in  December 2017, based on public comment and comment from Dow Chemical, the principal manufacturer of chlorpyrifos.  

The latest draft ignores the US EPA's November 2016 scientific findings that chlorpyrifos causes developmental neurotoxicity even in tiny doses. Instead, DPR uses cholinesterase inhibition as the "endpoint" (ie the impact their regulation is required to mitigate), even though cholinesterase inhibition occurs only at very high levels of exposure, far greater than the level that is believed to cause neurodevelopmental harm in young children. The risk assessment then establishes allowable exposure levels based on this endpoint, many thousands of times higher than EPA scientists consider safe for young children and pregnant women. 

As an example of the inadequacy of their risk assessment, using cholinesterase inhibition as the endpoint allows DPR to declare that children under 2 years of age are at zero risk of harm from food residues - because the risk of cholinesterase inhibition is zero. By contrast, the US EPA found that food residues expose children under 2 to levels 14,000% higher than the level at which neurodevelopmental harm occurs. Children in agricultural regions face far higher exposures.

In November 2017, in a surprise move, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced their decision to list chlorpyrifos as a reproductive toxicant under Proposition 65, a decision based in part on the same studies that the US EPA had relied on in proposing a federal ban - studies which DPR summarily dismissed for their draft risk assessment. OEHHA, like DPR, is a department within CalEPA.

At the all-day hearing in January, the SRP grilled DPR on their rationale for using cholinesterase inhibition as the endpoint and ignoring the far more harmful and sensitive endpoint, developmental neurotoxicity. At the conclusion of the meeting, the SRP told DPR that their risk assessment would have to be revised with developmental neurotoxicity as the new end point. 


Photo credit: Joan Cusick
Let Governor Brown know kids get one chance to develop a healthy brain. For the months OR YEARS it takes California to review chlorpyrifos, we are calling on the Governor to immediately suspend its use. 

While we wait, we know enough to give kids' health - not Dow's profits - the benefit of the doubt.

New Restrictions on Ag Pesticide Use Near Schools & Daycares Take Effect
Drift-prone methods are banned within 1/4 mile during school hours 

Photo credit: Joan Cusick
After many years of sustained pressure by CPR, and three years of deliberation and public hearings, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has now finalized its new regulation "Pesticide Use Near Schoolsites," DPR 16-004. The regulation took effect January 1, 2018 and includes a statewide buffer around all public schools and daycare facilities for the most drift-prone application methods from 6am to 6 pm on weekdays, as well as extra protections against fumigant pesticides and an annual notification requirement. 

There's much more work to be done, but the new statewide rule is a significant improvement in most counties in California. CPR is now calling for greater transparency for the notification process, including making the annual notification available to all, not just school administrators.

Caught in the Drift: Melissa Dennis
Watsonville teacher sees firsthand the impact of pesticides on children

Photo credit: Joan Cusick
Continuing our series of photo essays featuring residents, teachers, farmworkers and farmers from California's agricultural heartland: Meet third grade teacher Melissa Dennis, a children's health advocate who became involved in the Safe Ag Safe Schools coalition in the Monterey Bay area after noticing her students struggling with learning disabilities. Many of her third-grade students are one to two grade levels behind where they should be in reading and math.

"A lot of students are also struggling with health issues like asthma, and there seems to be a higher percentage of students who have suffered from different types of cancer," Dennis said.

Photographer Joan Cusick caught up with Melissa and her students on a visit to a strawberry farm next to their school, Ohlone Elementary School in Watsonville. The field closest to the school is the latest of Giant Berry Farms' fields to make the switch from conventional to organic production.

This strawberry field next to Ohlone Elementary is now organic
Photo credit: Joan Cusick

A new rule issued by the Department of Pesticide Regulation prohibits the most drift-prone pesticide application methods within a quarter-mile of schools from 6am-6pm, Mon-Fri. But school campuses are in use far beyond the school day, and many pesticides persist in the environment for days or even weeks. 

With the transition of this fifteen acre field to organic production, one school just got a little healthier.  "That's going to give us a huge buffer zone of fresh air," Dennis said.

We're working with acclaimed photographer and journalist Joan Cusick to connect the issues we work on here at CPR with the people most impacted by them. Her work may be viewed at joancusick.com and caughtinthedrift.com.

Know someone with a story to share? Email jane@pesticidereform.org.