State is sued over cancer-causing fumigant
February 1, 2017
• Lawsuit says state failed to provide public comment period and violated state law
• “Blatant regulatory failure continues to put rural and farmworker communities in harm’s way”
Attorneys representing Juana Vasquez, who is a Ventura County farmworker, and environmental justice groups are suing the California Department of Pesticide Regulation for what the suit contends is its failure to follow the recommendations of scientists and provide public review for the regulation of the Prop 65-listed carcinogenic pesticide 1,3-dichlorpropene (brand name: Telone).
It is used to control insects, nematodes and other organisms in the soil that threaten a variety of crops including sweet potatoes, almonds, strawberries, grapes and carrots.
“State officials ignored science and shirked public oversight as they ensured the continued and potentially expanded use of this cancer-causing pesticide,” says Natalia Ospina, an Oxnard-based attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance representing the farmworker plaintiff. “This blatant regulatory failure continues to put rural and farmworker communities in harm’s way.”
Specifically, the lawsuit charges that DPR did not follow normal public procedures in developing new rules for Telone, “including public notice, an opportunity for public comment, [and] a response in writing to comments.”
Second, the suit charges that DPR’s regulation is not based upon the recommendation of state scientists at the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), and is in violation of a state law that requires DPR to work with OEHHA to develop health-protective regulations.
Instead, the lawsuit’s argument contends, DPR chose to ignore OEHHA’s concerns regarding the adequacy of the new permit conditions, or rules for regulating pesticides, “including revised application limits and air concentration standards to protect nearby residents and workers from cancer risks.”
The plaintiffs call for revised regulations and for a new process complying with Government and Food & Agricultural Code, including “regulations that relate to the health effects from 1,3-D [Telone] based upon the recommendations of OEHHA and in concert with OEHHA so as to satisfy their joint and mutual responsibility.”
The other plaintiffs are Californians for Pesticide Reform and the Pesticide Action Network.
Banned for agricultural use in the European Union since 2011, as well as in California between 1990 and 1995, Telone is the third most used pesticide in California by pounds.
When the state announced in October 2016 changes in the regulations, DPR Director Brian Leahy said, “These changes reflect my commitment to a more effective approach to protecting the public from harm from pesticide use, particularly fumigants.”