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Sweeping Proposal Would Protect Kids, Farmworkers – and Everyone – From Toxic Pesticides

Bill Introduced by Sen. Udall, Rep. Neguse Would Ban All Organophosphate, Neonic Pesticides

WASHINGTON - Legislation introduced today would ban or restrict scores of the most toxic pesticides, introduce health-protective restrictions on pesticide use and registration, and create new safety protections for farmworkers – the most sweeping overhaul of the nation’s pesticide law in nearly 25 years.

The bill by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) would significantly strengthen the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA, to regulate the distribution, sale and use of pesticides. The Protect America's Children from Toxic Pesticide Act of 2020 would ban some of the most toxic pesticides used in the U.S., including all organophosphates, neonicotinoids and paraquat.

Among the pesticides that would be banned are chlorpyrifos, which can damage children’s brains and was slated for phaseout by the Obama administration, a proposal reversed under President Trump’s EPA. The bill would also ban malathion, which has been linked to increased risk of prostate cancer, and imidacloprid, which, like other neonicotinoids, poisons bees and other pollinator insects.

Children are especially susceptible to health risks from pesticide exposure. The American Academy of Pediatrics, which urges stricter pesticide regulations, says evidence links early-life pesticide exposure to pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems. 

“Numerous studies show that existing EPA regulations for pesticides fail to protect children’s health,” said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., EWG vice president for science investigations. “The federal pesticide policy is in urgent need of reform.”

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Under the proposed legislation, the EPA would be required to immediately suspend and review the use of any pesticide that is banned in the European Union or Canada. The list of such pesticides includes the notorious herbicide atrazine, which disrupts hormones, harms the developing fetus and contaminates the drinking water of millions of Americans.

“We applaud Sen. Udall and Rep. Neguse for this bold and much-needed proposal to overhaul the nation’s pesticide law that puts the health and safety of children, farmworkers and all Americans first,” said EWG senior vice president for government affairs Scott Faber.

“The pesticide industry and chemical agriculture have for far too long been able to abuse legal loopholes allowing for the use of toxic pesticides that have not been adequately tested to make sure they are safe for people and the environment,” Faber said. “As a result, millions of Americans are exposed to dangerous pesticides in their air, water and food. The Udall-Neguse plan will rein in this largely unchecked explosion of pesticide use by agriculture and give the EPA much stronger authority to protect the public.”

The legislation would also set new restrictions on the “conditional registration” loophole within the FIFRA law that allows pesticide manufacturers to get new chemicals approved and into the marketplace before the EPA has reviewed all the available science to determine if it is safe.

The legislation also calls for measures to protect farmworkers. It would require pesticide labels to be printed in English and Spanish, require employers to report injuries to farmworkers from pesticide exposure, and require the suspension of a pesticide when it causes a death of a farmworker.

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The mission of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. EWG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded in 1993 by Ken Cook and Richard Wiles.

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