Farmworker advocates demand highly toxic pesticide be suspended
The United Farm Workers, labor and community health groups from Florida to California are urging the EPA to immediately suspend hundreds of uses of chlorpyrifos, an acutely toxic pesticide that harms workers and their family members.
“We are seeking an immediate and total chlorpyrifos ban because farmworkers have been overexposed even with all the protective clothing that could possibly be required,” said Erik Nicholson, UFW National Vice President. “It’s nearly impossible for them to escape chlorpyrifos exposure because the poison is in the air they breathe, in the food they eat and in the soil where their children play.”
The petition filed with the EPA seeks immediate action to stop uses of chlorpyrifos that EPA has determined to pose unacceptable risks of acute poisonings to workers. It also asks EPA to protect children from exposures that cause irreversible brain damage, including reduced IQ, attention deficit disorders, and learning disabilities.
Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice filed the petition on behalf of United Farm Workers, League of United Latin American Citizens, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, National Hispanic Medical Association, Farmworker Association of Florida, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Migrant Clinicians Network, Learning Disabilities Association of America, GreenLatinos, and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.
So far EPA has failed to protect farmworkers and their families from chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic pesticide that is one of the top culprits in pesticide poisonings every year and has been linked to brain damage in children. People are exposed to this insidious health hazard when they eat food, drink contaminated water, work in fields, play in parks or go to school playgrounds where chlorpyrifos drifts.
Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide that originates from nerve gases the Nazis developed during World War II. Chlorpyrifos is acutely toxic and causes systemic illnesses to workers by inhibiting the body’s ability to produce cholinesterase, an enzyme necessary for the proper transmission of nerve impulses.
In 2000, EPA found that homeowner uses of chlorpyrifos harm children who play on pesticide-treated carpets or hug their pets after a flea bomb, but it left farmworker children and their communities unprotected.
According to the EPA, 10,000–20,000 physician-diagnosed pesticide poisonings occur each year among the approximately 2 million U.S. agricultural workers. However, many more pesticide poisonings go unreported.
Source: Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.