Pyrethoid re-evaluation goes too far, even by California standards

Interesting things are happening in California's latest environmental protection quest to “clean up” California's waterways.

By regulatory definition, just about anything and everything is considered a pollutant if found in streams, rivers, irrigation canals and other surface water bodies in the state. Basically, the state says any water discharged from agricultural fields, parking lots, baseball diamonds, your front yard and every other surface in California must be as pure as the water that falls from the sky.

The price Californians may be asked to pay for “pure water” that state lawmakers and regulators are demanding may be more than Californians are willing or should be asked to pay.

One of the latest finds by water testers are minute traces of the widely used pesticide class, pyrethroids, attached to sediments in some streams and waterways that may be toxic to certain aquatic organisms.

Let's be clear: We are not talking about drinking water, but water in wild streams and rivers.

This finding has triggered a data call-in by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation on more than 600 products from more than 120 manufacturers for re-evaluation.

Pyrethroids have been widely used in agriculture for more than 30 years; in home and garden and pet products for 20 years with no reports of serious environmental impacts.

When the latest DPR news release hits the popular press, the perception will be, “yep those farmers are polluting everything again.”

Allow me to shatter that perception. Here are just a few of the products listed on the data call-in: Sergeants Flea and Tick Shampoo, Green Thumb Multi Purpose Insect Killer Concentrate, Do It Best Insect Control and Ortho Bug-B-Gon Garden and Landscape Insect Killer, one of almost 40 Ortho home and lawn products listed.

This is not solely an agricultural issue. The loss of pyrethroids or severe restrictions on their use could adversely impact all 36 million Californians.

The agricultural community has seen this pyrethroid data call-in coming and is responding with information and education to growers and pest control advisers to minimize any pyrethroid “water pollution.” In addition, research has started on finding alternatives to pyrethroids if DPR should put restrictions on pyrethroid use.

If farmers and homeowners are forced to use alternative products, will these products be safer than pyrethroids, one of the safest pesticides available today? Not likely.

DPR Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam said switching to other pesticides is not the answer to the pyrethroids dilemma, since banning the use of pyrethroids could lead to more water quality problems from alternative pesticides. DPR is looking to develop “preventative strategies” to keep pyrethroids out of aquatic sediments.

We cannot help but wonder: Is all this necessary for a pesticide class that has been used without aquatic incident for more than three decades? Pyrethroids have been evaluated and re-evaluated without any red flag until now. And it seems to be a very small red flag.

If it is so necessary, why hasn't the federal Environmental Protection Agency intervened? DPR says the feds have not expressed interest in this issue.

Even by California environmental overkill standards, this pyrethroid pollution issue/re-evaluation process goes too far.

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