Pesticide companies drop challenge to California ban on chemical linked to brain disorders

Pesticide manufactures on Wednesday agreed to drop challenges to a proposed California ban on sales of a product linked to brain disorders in children, speeding up the state’s plan to remove the chemical from farms by two years.

In the pact, pesticide manufacturers such as DowAgroSciences agreed to stop selling chlorpyrifos products in California by February, according to the California Environmental Protection Agency.

The companies could have challenged the process ban, and drawn out the process by two years.

The agreement also requires farmers to quit using the product and remove it from their property by the end of 2020.

“For years, environmental justice advocates have fought to get the harmful pesticide chlorpyrifos out of our communities,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in prepared remarks. “Thanks to their tenacity and the work of countless others, this will now occur faster than originally envisioned. This is a big win for children, workers and public health in California.”

California moved to outlaw the pesticide after the Trump administration in 2017 nixed a proposed federal ban on the product. In July, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency again announced it would not ban the pesticide, finding that objections to it were not “supported by valid, complete, and reliable evidence.”

The pesticide is use on a variety of crops, including alfalfa, almonds, citrus, cotton, grapes and walnuts, according to a statement from the Department of Pesticide Regulation.

Exposure to chlorpyrifos can cause nervous system effects, and exposure to it by pregnant women has been linked to developmental delays and disorders in children, according to the National Pesticide Information Center.

Under the timeline, all sales of chlorpyrifos products will be banned beginning Feb. 6, 2020, while growers will no longer be allowed to possess or use chlorpyrifos after Dec. 31, 2020.

Newsom announced a plan to ban the substance earlier this year.

“The swift end to the sale of chlorpyrifos protects vulnerable communities by taking a harmful pesticide off the market,” said California Secretary for Environmental Protection Jared Blumenfeld in prepared remarks. “This agreement avoids a protracted legal process while providing a clear timeline for California farmers as we look toward developing alternative pest management practices.”

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.