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Targeting the Most Dangerous Chemicals

Maria, a farmworker for more than two decades, stands in a California farm field.

The farmworkers who help bring fresh fruit and produce to your table aren’t protected by the safety standards most workers in the U.S. enjoy. Maria, a farmworker for more than two decades, stands in a California farm field. See Maria's story.

Dave Getzschman for Earthjustice

Earthjustice is working to reduce harmful substances so that the air we breathe, the water we drink and the products we use don’t harm our bodies or our environment.

Our current regulatory system is unable to protect us from even the most harmful chemicals. As a result, the use of these dangerous chemicals—many of which are associated with endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, developmental disorders and cancer—is creating a toxic environment and endangering public health.

A landmark study in 2006 found up to 287 industrial chemicals, pollutants and pesticides in 10 newborn babies, measured in umbilical cord blood. The contaminants included 133 carcinogens, 157 chemicals that can harm the brain and nervous system and 151 chemicals linked to birth defects.

Earthjustice is targeting the most dangerous chemicals for phase-out or outright bans. The chemicals include:

  1. Sulfoxaflor: Earthjustice sued the U.S. EPA for its approval of the pesticide sulfoxaflor, shown to be highly toxic to honey bees and other insect pollinators. Sulfoxaflor is the first of a newly assigned sub-class of pesticides which some scientists across the globe have linked as a potential factor to widespread and massive bee colony collapse.
  2. Chlorpyrifos: Earthjustice is challenging the U.S. EPA’s failure to make a decision on banning the pesticide chlorpyrifos. The toxic chemical is widely used in orchards and agricultural fields, and exposure is linked to short and long term health effects, including headaches, seizures, low birth weights and developmental delays.
  3. Methyl iodide: In 2013, Earthjustice successfully challenged California’s approval of the cancer-causing strawberry pesticide methyl iodide. Wrongly touted by the manufacturer as environmentally superior to fumigants that contain methyl bromide, methyl iodide is an extremely poisonous pesticide that causes cancer and pollutes groundwater.
  4. Leaded aviation fuel: While lead was phased out of automobile gasoline more than 15 years ago, it persists as a constituent of aviation fuel (or "avgas") used by general aviation airplanes. Aviation is the single largest source of lead emissions in the U.S. and poses a significant threat to public health—especially in communities located near airports. Earthjustice’s client, Friends of the Earth, petitioned EPA in 2006 to make a finding that lead emissions from aircraft using avgas may endanger public health or welfare. Five years later, the EPA had taken no final action on the petition, so Earthjustice recently filed suit to get EPA to address this pollution problem.
  5. Flame retardants: Linked to cancer and developmental, neurological and reproductive problems, flame retardants are present in numerous household items. After leveraging our advocacy and communications efforts to build public pressure from thousands of Californians and Earthjustice supporters, California announced that it will no longer require high levels of toxic flame retardants to be used in its furniture. Earthjustice has urged the EPA to further regulate a group of flame retardant chemicals known as PBDEs.