Stronger Protections in Store for Farmworkers and Families

The EPA signals stronger safeguards against pesticide exposure.

Pesticide sign
Más de 80,000 personas urgieron a la Agencia de Protección Ambiental (EPA) a que prohíba el uso del peligroso pesticida de uso común chlorpyrifos en todas las cosechas. (Austin Valley/CC BY 2.0)

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As we walked through the almond orchard with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy recently, we were all celebrating stronger protections for farmworkers against pesticide exposure. This farm visit, organized by our partner United Farm Workers and the EPA, was the kickoff of a tour to promote awareness of a more protective and updated Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, or WPS, which will greatly increase protections for farmworkers nationwide.

Little did we know that McCarthy had more good news up her sleeve.

A month after the WPS news, the EPA announced a landmark decision to ban the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos from use in agricultural fields – just as they had banned it for residential and urban uses 15 years prior.

Earthjustice fought hard to make this ban a reality, bringing two court cases against the EPA in 2007 and in 2014. But this victory is shared by our partners, client groups and thousands of engaged individuals who flooded McCarthy’s inbox with comments. 42,282 people from around the nation wrote to McCarthy urging her to move forward with the ban. Personal stories are sometimes the catalyst needed to shift the needle in critical conversations. Here are just a few:

“My last patient as a hospice volunteer was a migrant worker child dying of a brain tumor. It was wrenching. It was also enraging because, though unprovable, I knew it was due to exposure to toxic pesticides in the fields. This is unacceptable. Please ban chlorpyrifos now and ban those that produce it from selling it overseas as was done with DDT. Thank you.”

     Rebecca Fletcher

“Thank you for your service and your commitment to quality of life. Respectfully, I ask the EPA to ban all uses of chlorpyrifos. I ask the members of the EPA to conscientiously consider the impact of use of pesticides not only on human lives – all animals, plants, water, air and soil.”

     Polly Lazaron

“My family knows firsthand what working in and around dangerous pesticides can do to a family – Four members suffering and three dead with Parkinsons!”

     Barbara Isley

“Thank you for taking action to stop a toxic pesticide that is poisoning so many people.”

     C.M. Smiley

Thank you to everyone who took a few minutes to add their voices calling for the ban of chlorpyrifos. We remain committed to a safer work environment for farmworkers and their families so we are working to ensure effective implementation and enforcement of the new Worker Protection Standard.  We’ll also fight Big Ag’s effort to weaken or destroy the proposed ban on chlorpyrifos. Let us know your thoughts and comments on our work so far. 

Kari Birdseye worked at Earthjustice from 2011–2016, as a national press secretary and on advocacy campaigns protecting our health and the environment from the impacts of pesticides and toxic chemicals.