EPA announces initiative to protect workers from nerve agent pesticides

Organophosphates are linked to intellectual disabilities and cancer


Erin Fitzgerald, efitzgerald@earthjustice.org

Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an initiative project to protect workers from some extremely harmful applications of four organophosphate pesticides. EPA also updated its worker risk assessments and asked the chemical companies that manufacture the pesticides to put the necessary mitigation in place on an expeditious basis.

Mitigation could entail cancelling uses, formulations, or application methods, increasing personal protective equipment (PPE), lengthening re-entry intervals for farmworkers, and spray drift mitigation, including no-spray buffers around homes, schools, day cares, and other places people gather. EPA is asking the companies to agree to mitigation and to submit labels embodying that mitigation.

“Studies show that organophosphates indefensibly poison workers and cause learning disabilities in children. These farmworker protections are long overdue and desperately needed,” said Patti Goldman, Earthjustice attorney. “Pesticide companies must act immediately to protect workers from the egregious harms from organophosphates, and EPA must take action to protect workers, their families, our food, and our drinking water from this entire class of pesticides.”

In 2021, Earthjustice filed a petition along with a coalition of 10 health, community, and farmworker groups asking the EPA to ban neurotoxic organophosphate pesticides, which are prevalent in our food and water, and endanger farmworkers and their families.

Earthjustice also released a comprehensive, first-of-its-kind report and data set collating 17 organophosphate human health risk assessments, as well as agricultural pesticide usage data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), documenting the location and amount of organophosphate usage in the United States, and the dangerous health effects associated with exposure. This data tool also shows what crops are sprayed, the foods that contain elevated levels of pesticide residues, and links to health risks evaluations and brief regulatory history. Read Earthjustice’s report on organophosphates.

In 2021 EPA banned all food uses of chlorpyrifos, the most well-known organophosphate pesticide, but it is only one among this toxic class of pesticides being used in agriculture.

Earthjustice is co-petitioners with the United Farm Workers, United Farm Workers Foundation, CRLA Foundation, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Farmworker Association of Florida, Farmworker Justice, GreenLatinos, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, League of United Latin American Citizens, Learning Disabilities Association of America, Pesticide Action Network North America, and Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste.

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