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Groups Argue Against "Unacceptable" Pesticide

Chlorpyrifos is used on apples and other crops, which some groups argue is harmful to farmworkers and children. (tubafil/Flickr)
Chlorpyrifos is used on apples and other crops, which some groups argue is harmful to farmworkers and children. (tubafil/Flickr)
July 10, 2018

LANSING, Mich. – Labor, civil rights and health groups, and seven states, made their final arguments in court Monday challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's decision not to ban a dangerous pesticide.

The EPA had proposed to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos, but former chief Scott Pruitt reversed course when he took over the agency, saying science about the chemical's dangers was unresolved.

Hector Sanchez, the executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement says Pruitt's announcement came not long after he met with the head of Michigan-based Dow Chemical, which sells the pesticide.

"The corruption that we have seen under this administration, especially at EPA, is unacceptable," he says. "Corporations are profiting at the expense of the health of our children and families, and this is a call to action. This is a call to end the pain of our families."

Chlorpyrifos is used on various crops, including apples, oranges and broccoli, and Sanchez says the country's strong food-safety laws don't allow for people to be exposed to such a hazardous chemical. A decision from the judges is expected in the coming weeks, or possibly months.

Sanchez says many farm workers get triple the exposure to this 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. And he disputes the EPA's claim that the science isn't clear.

"We have research that proves that these pesticides are very toxic for farm workers, and they have been proven to lower the IQ of children, and they have loss of working memory and attention deficit disorder, something that is totally unacceptable," he explains.

The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement is among the worker groups represented by Earthjustice in the case. Sanchez notes that because Latinos account for 75 percent of agricultural workers in the country, Latino families are disproportionately affected by the negative health impacts of pesticides.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI