Voices Across the U.S. Demand Ban on Brain-Harming Pesticide by Any Means Necessary

Advocates praise bill introduction in Congress and urge EPA for a full ban


Geoffrey Nolan, gnolan@earthjustice.org

Today, U.S. Representative Nydia Velazquez (NY-07) reintroduced a bill to ban the use of organophosphates in food production — the Ban All Neurotoxic Organophosphate Pesticides (BAN OPs) From Our Food Act. This bill would also prohibit foods from having any residue from organophosphates, without exception and regardless of tolerances set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Studies show that even low levels of exposure in children have resulted in learning disabilities, negative cognitive outcomes, attention deficit disorders, and loss of working memory. Farmworkers and those living close to fields using organophosphate pesticides are most at risk of exposure.

The bill comes three weeks after the EPA announced its new approach to organophosphates and released a concerning new risk assessment. Under this new approach, EPA is reducing protections for children based on novel tests that its own Scientific Advisory Panel found are inadequate for determining whether these dangerous chemicals would cause learning disabilities. EPA abandoned its previous determination that children need strong protections by relying on these tests and ignoring peer-reviewed studies linking the pesticide to lower IQs, hyperactivity, and autism.

“Toxic chemicals have no business being in our food, our drinking water, or poisoning the farmworkers who put that food on our tables each day,” said Earthjustice Senior Legislative Representative Daniel Savery. “We can and must eliminate the use of organophosphates in food production. We thank Congresswoman Velazquez for her continued leadership in recognizing the need for Congress to step in and urgently act to protect workers, communities, and consumers from these dangerous toxins, particularly as the EPA continues to delay taking needed action.”

Earthjustice and its long-term coalition partners have worked for years to limit exposure to dangerous organophosphate toxins. In November 2021, Earthjustice filed a petition along with a coalition of 13 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. Additionally, the EPA received more than 30,000 comments from people across the country demanding the agency do its job to protect our food, drinking water, and families. The EPA recently banned all food uses of chlorpyrifos, the most well-known organophosphate pesticide. However, chlorpyrifos is just one of over a dozen organophosphates the agency reauthorized for use in agricultural fields, even though they are acutely neurotoxic and are linked to neurodevelopmental harm to fetuses and infants.

Harms to children’s brains occur at even low levels of exposure, according to studies that tracked mothers and children. Furthermore, organophosphate can cause acute poisoning to farmworkers at allowable levels of exposure, even when workers wear the most protective equipment.

Earthjustice is co-petitioners with the United Farm Workers, UFW 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, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pesticide Action Network North America, and Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste.

If you are concerned that the EPA is allowing corporations to apply poisonous chemicals to the food we feed our families, it’s not too late to let them know. Demand the agency stand up to the chemical industry, protect people across the country, and finally ban OPs.

Original cosponsors on the BAN OPs From Our Food Act include Representatives Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Grace Meng (NY-06), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), and Nanette Barragán (CA-44).

Quotes from our co-petitioners:

“The United Farm Workers welcomes the reintroduction of BAN OPs From Our Food Act and thanks Congresswoman Velázquez for her leadership on this issue,” said UFW president Teresa Romero. “For too long farm workers across America have been exposed to dangerous pesticides including organophosphates while working in the fields. This bill would do right by both workers and consumers by prohibiting the use of this dangerous chemicals in producing the food we eat and protecting the farm workers who make that food possible.”

“The UFW Foundation urges the EPA to ensure the protection of farmworker families who are on the frontlines of exposure to harmful insecticides,” said UFW Foundation spokesperson Daniel Larios. “Organophosphates have no place in our food. To advance environmental justice, the agency must ensure that its decisions leave no farmworker behind. To protect ALL farmworkers, the United States must ban ALL uses of this neurotoxic pesticide and we will continue to advocate to that end.”

“We cannot allow any more farmworkers, especially farmworker women and their families, to be exposed to pesticides. The reproductive health of too many farmworker women have been harmed,” said Mily Trevino-Sauceda, executive director of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas. “Many have suffered complications during pregnancy. Too many children of farmworkers have been born with birth defects.”

“Farmworker families across the country are struggling to raise children with learning disabilities, ADHD, and other neurodevelopmental problems due largely to their chronic exposure to agricultural organophosphate pesticides. With lack of access to necessary resources, these families struggle every day to make a living and provide for their families,” said Jeannie Economos, Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Program Coordinator, Farmworker Association of Florida. “Not only is this an incredible injustice to the men and women whose work feeds America, it is tragic for their children’s futures. Our communities suffer. Banning OP pesticides is a public health and justice issue.”

“Farmworkers cannot achieve humane working conditions without the removal of poisonous pesticides; this country is completely dependent on farmworkers to provide food for our daily meals,” said CEO of Farmworker Justice Ron Estrada. “Keeping them safe and healthy at work — as well as treating them with respect as we do all other essential workers — requires us to ban neurotoxic organophosphate pesticides.”

“Farmworkers and their families have faced heavy exposure to organophosphate pesticides for far too long. Use of these dangerous pesticides must be ended,” said Anne Katten, Pesticide and Work Health and Safety Specialist, CRLA Foundation.

“Farmworkers and their children, the health professionals who serve them, and others all agree, we cannot regulate away these hazards. OPs must be banned,” said Margaret Reeves, Pesticide Action Network.

“We need to stop neurotoxic pesticides from poisoning the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the fruits and vegetables we eat,” said Tracy Gregoire, Healthy Children Project Director for the Learning Disabilities Association of America. “Given the science demonstrating strong links to learning disabilities and other neurological impacts, organophosphates have no place anywhere near our food.”

Organophosphates are acutely toxic and associated with neurodevelopmental harms in children
(Austin Valley / CC BY 2.0)
Organophosphates are acutely toxic and associated with neurodevelopmental harms in children (Austin Valley / CC BY 2.0)

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