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EPA’s Response on Pesticide Drift and Children’s Health Challenged

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–June 5, 2014.  Environmental advocacy groups filed an Administration Objection and a court appeal last week in order to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) refusal to quickly correct errors in pesticide registrations and immediately implement measures to protect children from exposure to dangerous pesticides that drift from fields during and after application.

EPA’s continued refusal to protect children’s health from pesticide drift is being criticized by numerous environmental, health, and farmworker advocacy groups. The groups, which include United Farmworkers, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Pesticide Action Network of North America, Sea Mar Community Health Centers, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Farm Labor Organizing Committee, originally filed a petition back in 2009 titled “Pesticides in the Air—Kids at Risk: Petition to EPA to Protect Children from Pesticide Drift (2009).” The petition asked that the agency properly comply with an existing law that requires EPA to protect children’s health from exposure to pesticides that drift from fields and orchards. After a more than four-year wait and a court appeal, EPA finally provided a response last March. These groups object to EPA’s recent response to their 2009 petition on the basis of two issues, both of which violate the agency’s obligations under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA):

The tolerances originally developed under FQPA were not formulated with the consideration of pesticide drift, leaving children at risk to additional exposures.

EPA failed to include a tenfold safety factor to protect infants and children due to incomplete data on pesticide drift and failure to assess all aggregate exposures for which it did have information on back in 2006, when the agency originally set the tolerances.

Essentially, EPA’s response was a refusal to correct pesticide registration errors and implement measures to protect children from exposure to dangerous pesticide drift in a timely manner, potentially prolonging compliance by another eight years. While EPA officials acknowledge that the agency had failed to consider drift when setting pesticide limits, the original deadline to complete this obligation under the Act came and went back in 2006; in face of this acknowledgement, however, EPA is declining to implement immediate protection or change its current plans and timelines, which extend to 2022. The petitioners are asking the EPA to immediately rectify the agency’s failure to consider pesticide drift in tolerances. Whether this request is fulfilled on time or not, however, petitioners ask that EPA at minimum immediately adjust tolerances to include the additional tenfold safety factor, as required by FQPA.

A number of health effects have been linked to pesticide exposure in children, including birth defects, respiratory disorders, and cancer. Additionally, a recent report from the California Department of Public Health finds that over a third of public schools in the state have pesticides of public health concern applied within a quarter mile of the school, including persistent and toxic substances like chlorpyrifos, methyl bromide, and malathion. While EPA has required pesticide labels to include warnings regarding spray drift for decades, the agency has also recognized that this measure is insufficient to protect populations like children. In fact, poisoning incident reports show that drift continues to pose significant risks. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation documented 3,997 reported pesticide drift incidents in the state between 1992 and 2007, which may reflect just a fraction of total incidents. These reports and studies highlight the importance of reducing children’s pesticide exposure. The failure to include pesticide drift and a safety factor when setting tolerances in a timely manner precludes an entire generation of children from getting the protection that they need.

For more information on spray drift and children’s health, read Beyond Pesticides’ past articles here and here. Learn more about how to protect your family’s health and the environment by reading Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience Guide.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Sources: Earthjustice Press Release, http://www.beyondpesticides.org



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