The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kathleen Sutcliffe, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 235

More Than 42,000 People and 51 Groups in 18 States Ask EPA to Protect Kids From Pesticides

Sign on to petition for long term protections, immediate no-spray buffer zones where kids live, learn, play


Genoveva Galvez knows there are pesticides inside her 14-year-old
body. What she really wants to know is this: how does she get rid of

Genoveva and her family live surrounded by orange and olive trees in
this small Central Valley town. When the cropdusters spray nearby, the
sickly smell burns their eyes and sends them reeling indoors (click here to view a video.)

Nearly a billion pounds of pesticides are sprayed in fields and
orchards across the country each year. But as families like Genoveva's
can tell you: those pesticides don't always stay where they're sprayed.

That's why some 42,000 people and 51 groups in 18 states have publicly supported a petition
asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set safety standards
protecting children who grow up near farms from the harmful effects of
pesticide 'drift' --
the toxic spray or vapor that travels from treated fields. The petition
also asks the agency to immediately adopt no-spray buffer zones around
homes, schools, parks and daycare centers for the most dangerous and
drift-prone pesticides.

The deadline for public comment on the petition before EPA was midnight Friday.

The public interest law firms Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice
filed the petition in October on behalf of farm worker groups United
Farm Workers, Oregon-based Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste,
California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, and the Farm Labor
Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO as well as Physicians for Social
Responsibility, Washington-based Sea Mar Community Health Center,
Pesticide Action Network, and the million-plus member

Genoveva's story is not unique. From apple orchards in Washington to
potato fields in Florida, poisonous pesticide 'clouds' plague the
people who live nearby - posing a particular risk to the young children
of the nation's farm workers, many of whom live in industry housing at
the field's edge.

"When farm workers come home after a long day in the fields and
orchards, they're faced with yet another worry - the poisons that are
settling in their homes, their lawns, their children's bodies," said
Erik Nicholson, National Vice President of United Farm Workers. "We
can't let another growing season go by. That's why more than 42,000
people and dozens of organizations are asking EPA to put an end to this

In 1996, Congress required EPA to set standards by 2006 to protect
children from pesticides. Four years have passed since that deadline,
and EPA's job is only partially complete. The agency has made some
progress -- banning the use of some pesticides in the home and on
lawns. But the agency has failed to protect children from these same
pesticides when they drift from treated fields into nearby yards,
homes, schools, parks and daycare centers.

"In farming communities throughout the country, children have been
abandoned by federal pesticide protections," said Earthjustice attorney
Janette Brimmer. "Tens of thousands of Americans and dozens of
organizations are asking EPA to finish the job it started so children
who live, learn, and play near farms and orchards are kept safe from
poisonous pesticides."

EPA has acknowledged the risk of pesticide drift, but still chose to
go ahead with a double-standard: protecting urban and suburban areas,
while leaving the children of farm workers and other rural kids

"We traditionally think of farms as healthy places," said
President Joan Blades. "But children and families across the country
are being poisoned by pesticides that travel from the fields into their
houses and bedrooms, causing serious and long-lasting damage to their
health. We already have standards barring the use of such pesticides
for homes and lawns to protect children. But all children deserve such
protection. You shouldn't have to live in the suburbs to be safe from
deadly pesticides."

"It's time the EPA put an end to this double-standard for farm
workers. The public has made it clear: EPA's policies must protect farm
workers and their children from unnecessary poisoning," said Farmworker
Justice attorney Virginia Ruiz.

Pesticide poisoning reports and scientific studies show that pesticides are ending up in the air and in people's bodies at unsafe levels. Among a host of examples: air monitoring
conducted near the Southwoods Elementary School in Hastings, Florida,
detected pesticides in every sample, sometimes at levels that may pose
serious health risks to young children.

"Children are especially vulnerable to pesticide exposures both
because their smaller bodies cannot break down toxins as well as
adults, and because their developmental processes are prone to being
derailed -- even by very low-level exposure," explains Karl Tupper,
Staff Scientist for Pesticide Action Network. "The particular
pesticides we're finding in our drift catching and biomonitoring
results are some of the worst: chlorpyrifos, diazinon, endosulfan...
these are associated with serious short- and long-term health effects.
They are also entirely unnecessary."

One of the pesticides identified as being so dangerous that the
groups have asked EPA to adopt immediate no-spray buffer zone is
chlorpyrifos -- among a class of pesticides that was initially
developed as a nerve toxin by the Nazis. The short term effects of
exposure to chlorpyrifos have been likened to a chemically-induced flu:
chest tightness, blurred vision, headaches, coughing and wheezing,
weakness, nausea and vomiting, coma, seizures, and even death.

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.