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Health, Labor Organizations Fight for Pesticide Ban

Pesticide drift can reach unsafe levels even at 300 feet from a field’s edge, according to Earthjustice. (Andy Powell/Flickr)
Pesticide drift can reach unsafe levels even at 300 feet from a field’s edge, according to Earthjustice. (Andy Powell/Flickr)
July 10, 2018

PHOENIX – Labor and health groups, along with seven states, are challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's decision not to ban a dangerous pesticide. Judges in a district court this week heard their arguments.

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."

Erik Nicholson is with the United Farm Workers. He disputes the agency's claim that the science isn't clear, saying research has linked the chemical to neurodevelopmental delays in children including reduced IQ and delayed motor development.

"There are well-documented studies about take-home exposure of pesticides and we feel confident in the science that the risk is way too high for any human being to be exposed to this chemical," he explains.

United Farm Workers is one of several groups asking judges to overturn the EPA's decision not to ban the chemical. The groups made final arguments in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Monday. The judges are expected to reach a decision in the coming weeks or months.

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

Nicholson says many farm workers face increased exposure to this pesticide because, in addition to being on the food they handle, it's often in the air and water in rural areas where they live.

"Workers are scared, and they're put in a horrible position of having to risk their health, risk the health of their families, their children, in exchange for continuing their employment," he laments.

Nicholson says protecting farmworkers from pesticide exposure would be a win for everyone since it would also protect consumers who eat the produce.

Katherine Davis-Young, Public News Service - AZ