Hawaii became the first state in the country to ban pesticides containing chlorpyrifos, a chemical that has been linked to disruptions in the brain development of babies and young children, with Gov. David Ige signing the measure into law on Wednesday.
The new law also achieves goals that local environmental groups have spent years fighting for, including a ban on pesticide spraying within 100 feet of schools during instructional hours and increased reporting requirements for restricted-use pesticides that are deployed in large quantities.
“After many years of no action, it was good for the Legislature and the community to come together to actually get the job done, get this bill across the finish line,” said Sen. Mike Gabbard, chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Environment Committee, during the bill signing ceremony.
Gabbard said he expected other states to follow Hawaii’s example in banning chlorpyrifos.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was poised to ban use of the chemical on all food products last year following a decade of scientific review. However, Scott Pruitt, who was hired by President Trump to lead the EPA, rejected the scientific recommendation of his own agency last year and has allowed the chemical’s continued use.
The reversal by the Trump administration increased pressure locally for lawmakers to ban the chemical, which in Hawaii has been used on produce, golf courses, tree plantations, turf grown for sod, as well as on plants grown in nurseries, greenhouses and some industrial sites, according to information from the state Department of Agriculture.
The statewide ban on chlorpyrifos takes effect Jan. 1, 2019, though the state Agriculture Department has the authority to exempt agricultural businesses through Dec. 31, 2022.
Rep. Chris Lee, chairman of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, said risks relating to pesticides had gone unaddressed in Hawaii for too long. “But that ends today with the significant step on the part of Hawaii’s Legislature, our community, coming together to say above all else, we value the health of our kids.”
The Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, which represents large biotech companies operating in Hawaii, issued a statement following the bill signing saying its member companies will comply with the new law.
“As responsible neighbors and good stewards of their farms and communities, our member companies will continue to comply with all applicable federal and state rules and regulations, including this new law,” said HCIA Executive Director Bennette Misalucha.