States petition EPA to protect children from pesticides

Posted January 5, 2005: The Attorneys General of New York, California, Connecticut and Massachusetts today filed a petition urging the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take stronger action to protect children from the health risks of eating food with excessive pesticide residues.

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said: "I am disappointed that the EPA has not been stronger in its policies to protect children's health and I hope our action today will result in less pesticide exposure for America's children."

Children beware
Pesticide Examples of food on which the pesticide is used
Alachlor corn, soybean, peanuts
Chlorothalonil bananas, broccoli, carrots, corn, peaches, peanuts, potatoes, soybeans, squash, tomatoes
Methomyl apples, beans, broccoli, corn, grapes, oats, oranges, peaches, peanuts, pears, soybeans, tomatoes, wheat
Metribuzin carrots, potatoes, soybeans, sugar cane, tomatoes, wheat
Thiodicarb corn, soybeans

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said: "Government has no greater duty than to safeguard the health and safety of its children. It's time for the federal government to step up, do the right thing, and honor that duty."

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said: "The EPA's failure to protect children from poisonous pesticides is unconscionable and unlawful. It makes everyday foods potential poison traps. Pesticides kill pests because they disrupt and destroy vital life systems - and can have the same toxic effects on children if their residues remain on food. I hope that the EPA will act swiftly on this petition, as our children's health depends on it."

Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly said: "Protecting our children is first and foremost - we must do everything we can to keep dangerous chemicals out of the food they eat. This petition provides EPA with an important opportunity to undo a wrong and protect the health and well being of our most valuable asset, our children."

Dr. Philip Landrigan, Director of the Center for Children's Health and the Environment at Mount Sinai School of Medicine said: "As a pediatrician who chaired the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children, I am distressed that the EPA is not following our committee's clear recommendation to presume that children are uniquely vulnerable to pesticides. When no studies of the developmental toxicity of a pesticide have been undertaken, EPA should automatically incorporate a child-protective safety factor into risk assessment. Too often, EPA has failed to take that critical step."

Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides said: "In adopting amendments to federal pesticide law, Congress intended to address a dramatic and documented deficiency in the protection of children from toxic chemical exposure, and EPA has simply not met its statutory duty. I applaud the Attorneys General for pursuing this critically important kids health issue."

Today's action by the Attorneys General asserts that the EPA has failed to comply with its Congressional mandate by not applying the stricter pesticide residue standards that accommodate the heightened sensitivity of children. The petition challenges regulatory decisions made by EPA on five pesticides that are widely used on food consumed by children. The pesticides that are the subject of this petition are: alachlor, chlorothalonil, methomyl, metribuzin and thiodicarb.

These same pesticides were the subject of a federal lawsuit filed by a coalition of AttorneysGeneral that was dismissed in July 2004 when a federal judge ruled that the proper procedure to challenge EPA's decisions on pesticide residue levels was through the EPA petition process. Today, the coalition of Attorneys General is filing that challenge.

In 1993 the National Academy of Sciences determined that infants and children are more susceptible to harm from pesticide residue on food because their bodies - - particularly their nervous systems - - are still developing.

In 1996, Congress unanimously passed the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) which directed EPA to set standards for pesticide residues on food that take into account children's special sensitivity to pesticides. Previously, EPA determined how much pesticide residue was allowed to remain on food based solely on the health risks posed to adults. The FQPA directed the EPA to set pesticide residue standards ten times more stringent than those considered acceptable for adults. This tougher standard can be waived only when there are reliable data demonstrating that a less stringent standard is still safe for children.

The petition is being handled by New York Assistant Attorney General Karen Kaufmann, Assistant Attorney General David Munro and Chief Scientist Judith Schreiber; California Deputy Attorney General Claudia Polsky; Connecticut Assistant Attorney General Matthew Levine; and Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General Andrew Goldberg.



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