Hawai‘i does what EPA failed to do: first U.S. ban on chlorpyrifos enacted into law
For immediate release: June 13, 2018
Honolulu, Hawai‘i: Hawai'i made history today when Governor David Ige, watched by representatives of the community from across the islands, signed into law Senate Bill 3095, banning all uses of chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxin that has been banned for home use for over 10 years because of its known impacts on the developing brains of children. This law also mandates 100 foot no-spray buffer zones around schools to protect children from open air spraying of Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs) during school hours. Chemical companies will have to report regularly on the RUPs they sprayed, when and where they sprayed, and in what quantities. This will allow impacted communities to access information about what they are being exposed to, and regulators to make informed decisions about protecting public health, the environment and endangered ecosystems.
This new law is the culmination of nearly six years of grassroots organizing by small, rural communities facing daily pesticide exposure, fighting lawsuits and millions spent on lobbying by the chemical companies. A coalition of families, teachers, scientists, health professionals, and advocates from the Hawai'i Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.), Hawai'i Center for Food Safety, Hawai‘i SEED, and Pesticide Action Network worked for years to push forward this legislation to protect our keiki, despite millions spent by the agrochemical industry to thwart the democratic process. For the first time in the United States, this bill said NO to chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that can trace its origin to nerve agents developed by the Nazis in World War II.
“As a mother who agonized about the dangers of sending my children to a school next to Monsanto’s fields where RUPs were sprayed regularly, I am so grateful to see this bill become law,” said Molokai lawyer and activist, Keani Rawlins-Fernandez,
“This law is our message to the EPA and to the chemical companies that we will no longer tolerate being ground zero for the testing of toxic pesticides that are damaging our children’s health and poisoning our environment,” said Gary Hooser, former Majority Leader of the Hawai'i Senate, and founder of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action. Hooser, who lives on Kauai, led the “Protect our Keiki” coalition of diverse residents from across the islands through the complex political process that resulted in this much needed compromise law to regulate how highly toxic chemicals like chlorpyrifos are unleashed on the community.
“Hawaii’s efforts have set a precedent, and we hope this will pave the way for other states that are looking to enact similar legislation,” said Leslee Matthews from Pesticide Action Network.
A win that will reverberate across the nation
“This is Hawai'i fighting back against the disrespect for science and public health—and winning! In the era of Trump, states must lead,” added Hooser.
Large agrochemical operations operate year round and take advantage of Hawaii’s three growing seasons. Consequently, there are areas where communities are exposed daily to the impacts of open spraying of Restricted Use Pesticides. Local laws on each island to regulate pesticide use and protect public health were met with lawsuits by the chemical companies. The 9th Circuit court ruled in favor of the chemical companies and invalidated county regulations, arguing that only the state had the authority to pass such laws.
Hawaii sets precedent for other states
Today the state exercised that responsibility to protect its citizens. Governor David Ige’s decision to sign the bill into law was an affirmation of how government is supposed to work when it listens to what the people need. Hawai`i did what the Environmental Protection Agency failed to do. It responded to the abundant data and studies that point to the adverse effects of R.U.P. Scientists, including some who had previously worked for the E.P.A. weighed in. Physicians weighed in, calling for a ban based on clear health impacts that they were seeing. Mothers, in tears about the terrible risk to their children’s health, weighed in. It was time to act. And Hawai`i did, with passage and enactment of SB3095 into law.