Media Release 03/29/04:
Groups Achieve Victory in Battle over Pesticide Registration
Lawsuit Serves as Wake-Up Call for State Agency to Re-evaluate Toxic Pesticides

Sacramento, CA (March 15, 2004) - Today, environmental groups won a major victory for the health of Californians and the waters of the state when the California Department of Pesticide Regulation ("DPR") issued a notice that it would re-evaluate the harmful environmental impacts of the toxic chemical chlorpyrifos. The State made its welcomed decision after Waterkeepers Northern California and Californians for Alternatives to Toxics filed a lawsuit in December challenging the State's annual approval of pesticides containing chlorpyrifos without re-evaluating the potential harm. The lawsuit, which is currently pending in San Francisco Superior Court, followed a year-long effort by the groups to secure DPR re-evaluation of the toxic chemical.

"We submitted the results of numerous studies conducted by government agencies and universities, which establish unequivocally that chlorpyrifos is toxic and highly damaging to aquatic life in the Central Valley," explained Deltakeeper Bill Jennings of Waterkeepers Northern California. "We're delighted we could assist DPR in recognizing the necessity of addressing the issue."

Chlorpyrifos is one of the most widely used chemicals in the United States with over two million pounds applied for structural and agricultural pest control every year. These applications contaminate rain and irrigation runoff in the two largest watersheds in California, the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, which flow into the San Francisco Bay and Delta. Scientific studies show that water contaminated with low levels of chlorpyrifos harms fish, including endangered species such as Coho salmon and steelhead trout. The chemical not only upsets the food chain by decreasing key prey species, but it also disrupts the endocrine systems of aquatic life, leading to abnormalities during development and weakened immune systems.

"We will be watching this hard earned examination of chlorpyrifos to make sure DPR conducts the process quickly and efficiently to ensure protection of California's threatened environment," stated Patty Clary, Executive Director of Californians for Alternatives to Toxics. "Our water and wildlife deserve nothing less."

In order for a pesticide to be sold or applied in California, DPR must annually renew the registration of the chemical. At the time of renewal, state law requires DPR to determine whether or not certain chemical ingredients of the pesticide are likely to have harmful impacts on the environment. When DPR receives evidence that continued use of a pesticide is likely to harm the environment, the agency must direct an environmental review of the chemical, a process referred to as "re-evaluation."

Last December, Waterkeepers Northern California and Californians for Alternatives to Toxics submitted fifty scientific studies to DPR demonstrating that chlorpyrifos is harming the environment. Even though DPR scientists admitted that many of the studies warrant re-evaluation, the agency ignored the importance of the evidence until environmental groups brought the issue to court.

"It took a lawsuit to get DPR to realize it can no longer avoid its responsibilities to regulate toxic chemicals," said Sejal Choksi pesticide attorney for Waterkeepers Northern California. "Our legal challenge of chlorpyrifos was a wake-up call for the agency to end its superficial renewal process."

The environmental groups' initial request made in December 2002 also urged re-evaluation of the toxic chemical diazinon. DPR agreed to the groups' request to conduct a re-evaluation of diazinon products in February 2003.


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