Buffer Zones: Protecting Paradise From Restricted Use Pesticides

View article as it appears in Civil Beat at: Buffer Zones: Protecting Paradise From Restricted Use Pesticides

By Rep. Cynthia Thielen

March 9, 2015

There have been over 7,000 studies on Atrazine and even Syngenta representative, Mark Phillipson, could not answer whether or not the pesticide is safe.

Atrazine, like other restricted use pesticides (RUP) in use in Hawaii, has been banned in dozens of countries, including the European Union and has been linked to birth defects, delayed development and increases the risk of preterm delivery, and ground water contamination.

The EPA regulates RUP and reviews the data provided by the RUP producers and worldwide independent research if necessary.

RUP are used by state agencies to clean our water from harmful bacteria or to aid in the removal of invasive plants. They are also used by a handful of large agrichemical operations like Monsanto, Dow Chemical, and Syngenta.

Because agrichemical companies are creating the pesticides of the future, they have been known to mix pesticides (RUP and general use pesticides) to develop the next best product.

These pesticides may have been proven safe by the EPA, if applied correctly, on their own but their research does not apply once various chemicals are applied at once.

Furthermore, because of the diversity of winds, soils, climates, and endangered endemic species of Hawaii, it is almost impossible to set a one-size-fits-all regulatory system for RUP use.

When mixed, some chemical reactions may be benign while others could be more harmful than two pesticides on their own. The Department of Agriculture has on record that some agrichemical companies have purchased up to 22 RUP in a year, which can create thousands of mixed possibilities that have never been proven safe or properly regulated.

This is not an agricultural issue, it is a health issue.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have both urged their members to advocate for government policy changes to identify and reduce exposure to toxic environmental agents including general use and restricted use pesticides. They concluded that the scientific evidence over the last 15 years show that pesticide exposure to men is associated with poor semen quality, sterility and prostate cancer and in women it is interferes with puberty, menstruation an ovulation, fertility, and menopause.

The studies conducted by AAP and ACOG are just the p of the iceberg. Researchers from The National Institutes of Health, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been conducting the Agricultural Health Study (AHS), a prospective study of cancer and other health outcomes in a cohort of licensed pesticide applicators and their partners since 1993. Farmers who are generally non-smoking and physically active have lower risks of cancers than the general populations but specific, rare cancers and diseases are cropping up in our farming communities that are linked to pesticide use.

This is what concerns residents who live just yards from these operations and why they would like the authority to create buffer zones around schools and hospitals to protect their most vulnerable populations and disclosure of what is being sprayed so that doctors and nurses can better serve those affected.

Grassroots groups across the counties have been working for years to get their counties and state to protect them from unnecessary harm and to have these chemical companies disclose when and what they are spraying so that doctors and nurses could better diagnose and treat the symptoms of their patients.

The counties of Hawaii, Kauai and Maui successfully led efforts to regulate pesticide use until the operations are proven safe, only to be sued in court. Two court decisions came to the conclusion that it was the state, not the county’s responsibility to regulate.

Senate Bill 1037, a measure to disclose pesticide use which passed in the Senate Ways and Means Committee and should move to the House this week, is a start but more protections are necessary to protect public health.

House Bill 1514 that which would have created buffer zones was killed by Rep. Clift Tsuji, Chair of Agriculture.

Hawaii is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. Darwin would have had a field day here exploring our wide range of endemic plants and birds and unheard of diverse soil make up. Of all 12 soil orders found on Earth, 10 are found along these islands. Each island ranges in age which also provides a unique perspective on evolution.

Evidence shows that pre Western contact the islands could produce enough food for over one million people; currently we import over 80 percent of our food.

Today’s methods of farming and pest control include using pesticides, a lot of them. So much so that they are found throughout our waterways. According to the 2013-14 State Wide Pesticide Sampling Pilot Project Water Quality findings, of 24 statewide water sample sites, 80 percent of them contained Atrazine, a restricted use pesticide (RUP).

Is our unique paradise being compromised?



Hard Questions for HECO

Thielen grilling HECO

Rep. Cynthia Thielen questions testifiers from Hawaiian Electric regarding the need for more funding through special revenue bonds on Tuesday, February 17, 2015. View it all here.

Continue Reading

The Azura Has Arrived: An Advancement for Hawaiian Renewable Energy


Walking along our Windward beaches, I never cease to be amazed by the unbridled power of our tides and waves.   As most of you know, I have long been an enthusiastic supporter of energy produced by our oceans, and am thrilled that the next chapter for wave energy is now opening up in Hawai‘i! This […]

Continue Reading

Important Strides Being Made to Boost Hawaiian Food Security

Hawaii agriculture is ripe for change. The large majority of our farmers are well into their 60s and since the 1980s we have reduced our number of farmers by 2/3rds. We currently import nearly 90% of our food which compromises our food security and degrades the nutritional integrity of what we eat. It’s time to […]

Continue Reading

2015 the Year of Hope for Hemp


Last week, a constituent shared with me a very special February 1938 issue of Popular Mechanics. Inside the tan pages and tattered edges, along with other articles on the cutting edge technologies of its time, is an article on Hemp, the New Billion Dollar Crop. With new technologies, it was highly profitable to move ahead […]

Continue Reading

Storage is Key to Hawaii’s Energy Independence

The Energy Storage North America (ESNA) Expo and Conference in San Jose was the largest gathering of energy storage leaders, government officials and utilities addressing grid-connected energy storage. I was one of the invited keynote panelists, along with PUC Commissioner Lorraine Akiba, Hawaiian Electric VP Colton Ching, and moderator, Leslie Cole Brooks, Executive Director of […]

Continue Reading

2014 End Of Session Legislative Report

Every year, Rep. Thielen sends her constituents a detailed Legislative Report as a wrap up to the legislative session.  This year’s report, which contains legislative “Winners & Losers” can be found here.

Continue Reading