Time to Protect Kids From Toxic Pesticide Drift

Only 8 days remain to contact EPA

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Pesticides, by design, maim, incapacitate, or kill pests. But throughout this country, pesticides drift from the fields where they are sprayed to areas where children live, learn, and play, causing similar harm. Far too many children suffer acute nerve poisoning illnesses from pesticides and they risk debilitating long-term effects like cancer, reproductive impairments, and learning disabilities.

As its name suggests, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with protecting children from pesticide-induced illnesses. In fact, in 1996, Congress unanimously passed the Food Quality Protection Act, giving EPA 10 years to ensure that children would not be harmed by their aggregate exposures to a pesticide.

To do this, EPA added up the exposures to children from a pesticide in food, drinking water, homes, and yards. Unfortunately, it failed to include what is often the biggest exposure for rural kids, kids living near fields or orchards, and farmworkers—pesticides moving through the air to envelop and permeate the homes, schools, parks, and playgrounds. This route of exposure, known as pesticide drift, occurs following pesticide application.

Earthjustice has been trying to right this wrong for years through lawsuits challenging EPA’s approval of particularly toxic pesticides. Last fall, we filed a petition asking EPA to correct this moral and legal wrong by imposing safeguards to protect kids from harmful pesticides that drift. These pesticides are sprayed in fields throughout the country, wreaking havoc in local communities.

EPA is asking for public comment on our petition with comments due March 5, 2010. The pesticide industry is out in force urging EPA to do nothing and leave our children at risk for years to come. To counter this pressure, EPA needs to hear that it should immediately prohibit the spraying of toxic pesticides around schools, day cares, playfields, and homes. While no-spray buffer zones won’t eliminate all pesticide drift, they will lessen the exposures to kids while EPA develops the required longer-term safeguards. This is a necessary first step.

More than 19,000 Earthjustice supporters have contacted EPA so far. Join them.

Patti is a senior attorney of the Northwest regional office in Seattle, where she works to fight efforts to turn the Pacific Northwest into a fossil fuel export hub. She also leads Earthjustice's pesticide work and efforts to preserve access to the courts and legal remedies. Her litigation experience includes notable successes in safeguarding the region’s old-growth forests, restoring Pacific salmon, and more.