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Groups Ask EPA to Protect Kids from Pesticides

October 15, 2009

CONCORD, N.H. - Groups representing farm workers, doctors and mothers have banded together to ask the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do more to protect children from pesticides. They filed a petition on Wednesday, citing examples of dangerous chemicals being sprayed on fields and orchards - chemicals that drift into other areas, affecting schools and neighborhoods.

Attorney Janette Brimmer with Earthjustice says most states do not do a very good job of tracking or reporting these risks, and she points out that pesticide safety standards are the EPA's responsibility.

"The goal of this petition is to get EPA to do what it's supposed to have been doing all along: analyze all the ways that children could be exposed to pesticides, including drift, and then take some protective measures."

Critics of the petition say states have their own standards and enforcement procedures for pesticide use and point out that the EPA is already in court over other pesticide cases that may resolve some of the issues.

The groups are asking the federal agency to set safety standards and to immediately adopt no-spray buffer zones around schools, parks, child care centers and homes. That's because the petitioners do not expect a quick decision, Brimmer explains, and "in the meantime, kids are exposed to toxic drift."

"Our petition says to EPA, 'While you are working through that - doing the studies and making those determinations - you need to implement some buffers for the most dangerous pesticides.'"

By "most dangerous," Brimmer is referring to organophosphates (or "OPs") and carbonates. The EPA has determined that children are already close to their maximum acceptable levels of exposure to those families of chemicals.

The petition was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, Pesticide Action Network, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Moms Rising, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and SeaMar Community Health Center.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH