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Pesticide bill on verge of taking root

KAILUA-KONA — Hawaii is one step closer to buffering the use of several pesticides around schools, while outright banning the use of another throughout the state.

The Legislature on Friday afternoon passed out of conference committee Senate Bill 3095 SD1 HD1 CD1, sending the measure to final votes on the House and Senate floors.

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The bill would prohibit the use of all pesticides within 100 feet of any public, private or home school between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. on school days. It also would ban the use of chlorpyrifos beginning Jan. 1, 2019, making Hawaii the first state to do so.

The measure would afford the Hawaii Department of Agriculture the right to extend three-year exemptions to agricultural businesses to transition to another form of crop treatment.

“This bill is an important statement by our state that has national implications,” Agriculture Committee Chairman Richard Creagan, D-Naalehu, Ocean View, Captain Cook, Kealakekua, Kailua-Kona, said in a House press release. “It will bring attention to the risk to pregnant women from chlorpyrifos. It will also send a message to the 100 countries still using chlorpyrifos that tens of millions of their babies and children’s brains are at risk and show them how to reduce that risk.”

Farmers across the state fought the ban.

The Hawaii Farm Bureau, through its president Randy Cabral, testified that a blanket ban was unnecessary and would disadvantage Hawaii farmers.

The HDOA also testified against the ban during the state’s legislative process.

John McHugh, manager of the Pesticide Branch at the HDOA, said chlorpyrifos use has dropped 70 percent in Hawaii in the past four years and generally is considered safe when used according to instructions on the label.

Chlorpyrifos was once the most widely used pesticide in the United States but has been shown across multiple studies in recent years to have adverse effects on fetuses.

Children exposed to the chemical suffered at a higher rate from developmental delays and disorders, as well as other issues such as attention deficit disorder or hyperactivity.

According to the release, chlorpyrifos is responsible for the deaths of about 10,000 people around the world each year.

The Environmental Protection Agency banned indoor use of chlorpyrifos in most contexts in 2000, while banning or restricting its use on several crops over the course of the following two years.

In 2012, the EPA lowered chlorpyrifos application rates and developed no-spray buffer zones around public and residential areas.

The EPA recently was considering a nationwide ban on the chemical before leadership changes at the department led to reprioritization of the issue. Chlorpyrifos is already banned in Europe.

“Protecting the health of the people in our communities is paramount,” House conference committee co-chairman Rep. Chris Lee, an Oahu Democrat, said in the release. “This bill strikes a thoughtful balance that protects the health of Hawaii’s children and families and also helps ensure agricultural companies use pesticides responsibly to prevent unintended consequences.”

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SB 3095 comes with a stipulation that commercial agriculture entities must provide regular reports of pesticide use. The bill also appropriates $300,000 from general revenues for a pesticide drift monitoring study at three schools throughout the state, as well as another $300,000 from the Pesticides Revolving Fund to fund the measure, including education and outreach.

Email Max Dible at mdible@westhawaiitoday.com.