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Suit Claims EPA Failing to Protect Kids from Pesticide Drift

PHOTO: A lawsuit filed against the Environmental Protection Agency seeks to force the EPA to reevaluate the potential harms of pesticide drift exposure and then take action accordingly. CREDIT: Magarell
PHOTO: A lawsuit filed against the Environmental Protection Agency seeks to force the EPA to reevaluate the potential harms of pesticide drift exposure and then take action accordingly. CREDIT: Magarell
July 25, 2013

DES MOINES, Iowa - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been taken to court over claims that it is failing when it comes to protecting children from pesticide drift. Linda Wells, associate organizing director, Pesticide Action Network of North America, said the lawsuit seeks to force the EPA to reevaluate the potential harms, specifically for children in rural America.

"Farm workers' kids and farmers' kids are the ones who are being impacted daily," Wells warned. "We want the EPA to evaluate the risk of pesticide drift exposure for all pesticides and then limit or prohibit those pesticides based on their evaluation."

The petition, filed in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, also asked the EPA to immediately adopt no-spray buffer zones around homes, schools, parks and day care centers for the most dangerous and drift-prone pesticides, which Wells said are associated with serious health effects.

"There's a growing body of evidence that points to pesticide exposure as a significant contributor when it comes to a whole myriad of childhood health harms," she said, "including learning disabilities, childhood cancers, obesity and everything along the autism spectrum."

Congress required the EPA to set standards by 2006 to protect children from pesticides, but Wells claimed the progress made since that deadline passed is not nearly enough.

Among the individual declarants in the suit is Upper Midwest farmer and mother Bonnie Wirtz. She was treated at the emergency room last year when pesticide was sprayed on a nearby field and drifted into her home. The exposure caused a severe reaction, Wirtz said.

"The practitioner who handled my case was really irate. She said, 'This is unacceptable, and I see this more than I would like to see this.' She was the one who made me realize that this issue was more commonplace than I or anyone else had ever realized," Wirtz said.

More than 5 billion pounds of pesticides are used in the U.S. each year.

Additional information and a petition are at http://www.autismohio.org/.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA