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Farmworker Advocates Urge Suspension of Highly Toxic Pesticide

Farmworker advocates are petitioning the EPA to ban the use of a widely used toxic pesticide in the fields.(Wasan Gredpee/iStockphoto)
Farmworker advocates are petitioning the EPA to ban the use of a widely used toxic pesticide in the fields.(Wasan Gredpee/iStockphoto)
September 22, 2016

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Advocates say the nation's two million farmworkers deserve a safe place to work, free of hazardous chemicals, so they petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday to ban the use of a toxic pesticide called chlorpyrifos. The feds banned home uses of the insecticide in 2000 but have allowed farms to continue to use it to keep bugs away from crops such as apples, pears, nuts and corn.

Patti Goldman, managing attorney with the Northwest Office of the environmental law organization Earthjustice, Earthjustice, which filed the petition, said American farmers use about 8 million pounds of chlorpyrifos a year, putting their employees' health at risk.

"It's basically treating workers like second-class citizens, and so it's time to put an end to that delay and to protect the workers and their families," she said.

Chlorpyrifos is a nerve toxin proven to cause neurological deficits in children who live near the fields. In 2015, the EPA tried to negotiate with the pesticide industry to reduce its use or limit human exposure, but the talks failed. Advocates say they are prepared to take this issue to court if the EPA continues to drag its feet.

Erik Nicholson, national vice president of the United Farmworkers Union, said the EPA needs to take regulatory action immediately.

"The science is not in question," he said. "The big question is why is the federal government continuing to allow this dangerous pesticide to be used in the production of the food that we're eating."

Nicholson added that protective clothing isn't enough to keep farmworkers safe because chlorpyrifos poisons the air, the food and the soil around them.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA