Submitted on behalf of United Farmworkers,
PesticideAction Network of North America,
Physicians for Social Responsibility, MomsRising,
Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste,
Sea Mar Community Health Center,
California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation,
and Farm Labor Organizing Committee
THE U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY HAS FAILED TO PROTECT
CHILDREN FROM PESTICIDE DRIFT
AND MUST TAKE IMMEDIATE STEPS TO CORRECT THESE
VIOLATIONS OF FEDERAL PESTICIDE LAWS
This petition asks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) to remedy ongoing
violations of its legal obligations to protect children from unsafe aggregate exposures to
pesticides. Specifically, EPA has failed to protect children from exposure to toxic pesticides that
drift from agricultural fields and contaminate areas where children congregate, such as homes,
park, schools, and daycare centers. To ensure that children are protected from toxic pesticides as
required by the law, this petition asks EPA to:
(1) expeditiously evaluate the exposure of children to pesticide drift and impose
safeguards to ensure that children are protected from aggregate pesticide
exposures, including pesticide drift;1
(2) immediately adopt interim prohibitions on the use of toxic drift-prone pesticides
such as organophosphates and n-methyl carbamates near homes, schools, parks,
and daycare centers or wherever children congregate
I. CHILDREN ARE PARTICULARLY VULNERABLE TO PESTICIDES.
In 1993, the National Academy of Sciences (“NAS”) released a pivotal study on the
heightened vulnerabilities of children to pesticides. The study criticized EPA for treating
children like “little adults” and for failing to address their unique susceptibility to pesticides and
their exposures based on the foods they eat and their play and exploration activities. Children
are especially vulnerable to harm from pesticides because they are growing and developing, eat
and drink more per body weight than adults, consume large amounts of certain foods, and engage
in activities that increase their exposure such as frequently putting hands or objects into their
mouths. NAS recommended that EPA revise its pesticide regulations to account for children’s
vulnerabilities, consumption patterns, and “exposures from all sources – not just ingestion . . . .”2
II. CONGRESS DIRECTED EPA TO ENSURE THAT CHILDREN ARE PROTECTED
FROM PESTICIDES FROM ALL SOURCES BY THE END OF 2006.
Congress heeded the NAS recommendations and unanimously passed the Food Quality
Protection Act in 1996. That law requires EPA to “ensure that there is a reasonable certainty that
no harm will result to infants and children from aggregate exposure” to pesticides.3
“Aggregate exposure” includes “all anticipated dietary exposures and all other exposures for which there is
reliable information,” including pesticide drift exposures.4 Congress gave EPA an August 2006
deadline to bring all pesticides used on foods into compliance with these protective mandates.
III. EPA IGNORED CHILDREN WHO ARE POISONED BY SPRAY DRIFT AND
VOLATILIZATION DRIFT WHERE THEY LIVE, GO TO SCHOOL, AND PLAY.
To comply with the new FQPA requirements, EPA developed methods to estimate child
and infant pesticide exposures from a variety of sources, including crawling and playing on
treated lawns and carpets, putting their hands into their mouths, and playing with pets treated
with flea shampoos. These assessments led EPA to cancel numerous home uses of pesticides
because of excessive risks to children.
Pesticide drift is another significant route of exposure for children, particularly those who
live in agricultural areas. The 1993 NAS study on children’s risks from pesticides found that
agricultural pesticide drift can contribute to kids’ overall pesticide exposure and that airborne
pesticide residues are generally higher in areas close to agricultural lands.5
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation has also documented harmful exposures to the public from
pesticide drift. And the Washington State Pesticide Incident Reporting and Tracking Review Panel has found that
“[e]xposure to pesticide drift is an important cause of documented pesticide- related illness in Washington.”6
Inexplicably, EPA has failed to assess children’s exposures to pesticides that drift from agricultural sites to homes, schools, daycares, parks, and other places where children may be exposed. EPA’s failure comes despite its acknowledgment of its obligation to protect children from drift, which can cause acute poisonings as well as cancer, long-term reproductive and developmental
disorders, and other chronic adverse effects. By failing to assess the risk to children who are exposed to agricultural pesticide drift, EPA maintains a double-standard that often provides some protections for kids from pesticides used in urban and residential settings, but leaves kids who live near agricultural sites unprotected and vulnerable to pesticide drift.
In failing to protect these forgotten children, EPA has violated the Food Quality Protection Act. The agency’s failure also violates executive orders directing EPA to ensure that its programs do not have disproportionate adverse health impacts on children, minority, and low-income populations.
IV. EPA MUST TAKE IMMEDIATE STEPS TO COMPLY WITH ITS LEGAL DUTY TO PROTECT ALL CHILDREN FROM PESTICIDE DRIFT.
This petition asks EPA to take two immediate steps to comply with its legal duty to protect all children from all pesticide exposures:First, EPA must fully evaluate drift risks for all pesticides that have the potential to move from agricultural sites to areas where children congregate, such as homes, parks, schools, and daycare centers. Based on these assessments, EPA must limit or prohibit pesticide uses that result in children being exposed to unsafe levels of pesticide particles or vapors. In order to adequately protect children, EPA must correct its violations of the FQPA and executive orders more quickly than the current set of pesticide registration reviews, which are not scheduled to be completed until 2022. Second, to protect children while it conducts the necessary drift exposure assessments and develops pesticide-specific protective measures, EPA should impose no-spray buffer zones for dangerous drift-prone pesticides around homes, schools, parks, daycare centers, and other places where children congregate. EPA has recognized that such buffer zones are an effective method in reducing risks associated with pesticide drift. These buffers should be required for all pesticides that have the potential to drift, including the two classes of widely used nerve toxins (organophosphates and n-methyl carbamates) that cause acute poisonings. EPA has found that young children are already exposed to these two classes of pesticides at or possibly in excess of maximum safe levels, without having considered the additional exposures from drift. EPA must take immediate steps to prevent the additional unassessed drift exposures from harming children while EPA completes the drift risk evaluations.
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