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Kauai’s Mental Health Providers Voice 
Grave Concerns Over Dangers of Restricted-Use Pesticides

Bill 2491 Seen as a “Moral Obligation”

LIHUE - Twenty of Kauai’s mental health providers have stated their strong support of Bill 2491, citing grave concerns over the neurological impacts of pesticide exposure on children. They are actively awaiting Mayor Carvalho’s signing of the Bill into law.

A letter signed by mental health professionals from around the island raised alarm about the high use of Restricted-Use Pesticides (RUPs) on the island:

Restricted use pesticides are dangerous neurotoxins that have been proven to harm the structure and functioning of the brain creating irreparable, lifelong damage. They increase the rates of ADHD, autism, developmental delays, behavioral disorders, learning disabilities and declines in IQ.

The health care providers also submitted for the public record 26 peer reviewed studies that demonstrate the neurological impacts of pesticide exposure. These studies included:

● Virginia Rauh, at Columbia University, found that when children are exposed to chlorpyrifos prenatally the structure of their brain becomes permanently altered diminishing their memory, their language ability, and their emotional and impulse control.

● The National Academy of Sciences now estimates that one third of all neurobehavioral disorders (such as autism and ADHD) are caused either directly by pesticides and other chemicals or by the interaction between environmental exposure and genetics.

● The Center for Disease Control has found that children with exposure to organophosphate pesticides were twice as likely to have ADHD.

● In 2012, a group of researchers from Mt. Sinai Medical Center released a list of the top ten types of chemicals most likely to be linked to the development of autism. Organophosphate pesticides and organochlorine pesticides as endocrine disruptors are both on that list.

● Studies out of California, New York, and Minnesota all concur that when mothers are exposed to pesticides during pregnancy, the risk of autism increases sharply.

● Another study in California’s Central Valley found that children whose mothers lived within 500 feet of fields being sprayed were SIX times more likely to be on the autism spectrum.

● Three cohort studies released in 2011 concluded that pesticide exposure is responsible for a seven point reduction in IQ, reduced working memory and reduced cognitive development in children.

Sandy Salmers, LCSW, stated: 

In light of the vast amount of research that demonstrates the negative physical and mental health effects of pesticide exposure, the American Association of Pediatrics’ recommendation to limit children’s exposure to pesticides, and the evidence presented by Kauai’s own health care providers, I support the Mayor signing Bill 2491 into law.  This bill is an important step in protecting Kauai’s children from pesticide exposure.

Katie Johnson, LCSW, DCSW, said:

As a therapist who works with families of children with neurological and behavioral disorders, I cannot express the degree to which these disorders can potentially disrupt the emotional stability and well-being of a child and his/her family.  If by implementing some common sense precautions, like placing buffer zones around our schools and communities, we are able to potentially prevent some of these disorders, I believe we have a moral obligation to do so.

Mental health providers currently do not have the necessary Kauai-specific data to determine whether pesticide exposure is a causal factor in the neurological, behavioral, or developmental disorders seen in some of the island’s children. However, they say that the scientific research is decisively clear that pesticides pose a grave risk to the neurological functioning of children, and therefore it is critical to have pesticide disclosure and conduct a local health study while instituting greater protective measures including buffer zones.


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