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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 re-evaluate 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 re-evaluate the potential harms of pesticide-drift exposure and then take action accordingly. CREDIT: Magarell
August 6, 2013

PHOENIX - The Environmental Protection Agency is being taken to court over claims that it's failing when it comes to protecting children from crop-dusting pesticide drift.

According to Linda Wells, associate organizing director with the Pesticide Action Network, the lawsuit seeks to force the EPA to re-evaluate the potential harm of pesticide exposure, specifically for children in rural America.

"Farm workers' kids and farmers' kids are the ones who are being impacted daily, and 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," Wells declared.

Congress had 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.

The petition also asks 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, including learning disabilities, childhood cancers, obesity and everything along the autism spectrum," she charged.

Arizona law prohibits spraying of dangerous pesticides within a quarter-mile of a school or day-care facility.

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

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

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

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California.

More information on the petition is at bit.ly/13EjBIz.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ