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Big Win for Farm Workers as EPA Moves to Ban Dangerous Pesticide

Agency's proposal hailed as 'a step forward on the path to environmental justice.'

Agricultural workers in Salinas, California.  (Photo: Michael Davidson/flickr/cc)

In what could be a huge gain for environmental justice, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed on Friday a ban on an agricultural pesticide linked to brain damage problems in children as well as harm to workers and communities.

The announcement on the pesticide, chlorpyrifos, comes a day ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline issued (pdf) by a federal court of appeals directing the EPA to act on a 2007 petition from Pesticide Action Network (PAN) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to ban the chemical, and comes 15 years after the agency banned its residential use.

"This is what we have been seeking for years," said Patti Goldman, the Earthjustice attorney handling the case.

As PAN explains, "chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate pesticide known for its damaging effects on the human nervous system."

"[U]sed in the production of fruits and vegetables throughout the U.S., chlorpyrifos has been widely studied for its neurodevelopmental effects on children," PAN adds.

Jennifer Sass previously wrote at NRDC's Switchboard blog:


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Organophosphate pesticides like chlorpyrifos were developed as nerve agents in World War II and adapted for use as insecticides after the war. It should come as no surprise that a chemical developed as a nerve agents would have deleterious effects on people who come into contact with it when it is used as an insecticide.

"EPA’s own findings show that chlorpyrifos causes brain damage to children and poisons workers and bystanders," Goldman's statement adds, while Virginia Ruiz of Farmworker Justice hailed the proposal as "a step forward on the path to environmental justice."

"Farmworkers and their families, who are predominantly poor and majority people of color, bear the brunt of poisonings from pesticides and pesticide drift," Ruiz noted.

The Associated Press reports that the EPA will take public comment on the proposal for two months, and is expected to issue a final rule in 2016.

Veena Singla Blog writes at Switchboard Friday, "If the proposal becomes a reality, it would be a huge victory, and provide agricultural communities the protections they deserve and have been denied for too long."

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