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Oregon Presents Arguments in Court to Ban Dangerous Pesticide

Oregon and a farmworkers union in the state say a pesticide used on food is harmful, especially for children. (William M. Ciesla/USDA Forest Service)
Oregon and a farmworkers union in the state say a pesticide used on food is harmful, especially for children. (William M. Ciesla/USDA Forest Service)
July 9, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. — Labor, civil rights and public health groups, as well as seven states, will make their final arguments in court today challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's decision not to ban a dangerous pesticide.

The EPA under President Obama had proposed a ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos. But former administrator Scott Pruitt reversed course after taking over the agency in 2017, saying science concerning the chemical's dangers was unresolved.

Attorney Patti Goldman is with Earthjustice, which is representing the groups in this lawsuit. She disputes the agency's claim that the science isn't clear, saying there is a large body of evidence that the pesticide is dangerous, especially for children.

"What's emerged in the last 20 years is incredibly solid evidence that this pesticide damages children's brains at very low exposures,” Goldman said; “things like reduced IQ, autism, attention deficit disorder. Every parent's fear."

Goldman said residue from this pesticide is on the food we eat, and the country's strong food safety laws don't allow for people to be exposed to such a hazardous chemical.

Oregon, California, and Washington are among the states challenging the EPA's reversal on chlorpyrifos. They'll ask the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn that decision.

Goldman said Earthjustice is presenting arguments on behalf of farmworkers groups nationwide, including Oregon farmworkers union PCUN, whose members have felt the effects of chlorpyrifos in the fields.

"Our clients have members who have been poisoned by this pesticide, and who have children with learning disabilities, and who have had drift come to the schools where their children go to school,” she said. “And they're terrified that they're exposed to this pesticide with all we know about it, and that our government is continuing to allow that to occur."

Goldman said many farmworkers get triple the exposure to the pesticide: It's on the foods they eat and in the air and water where they live.

The pesticide has been banned from home use for about two decades because of its dangerous effects. It's used on various crops, including apples, oranges and broccoli.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR