New lawsuits filed to tighten pesticide regulation

WASHINGTON, DC, September 15, 2003: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is failing to adequately protect children from dangerous pesticides, according to two lawsuits filed today in federal district court in New York City.

One lawsuit was filed by a coalition of environmental, public health and farm worker organizations, and the other by four states - New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Both lawsuits say the EPA is violating the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act, a bipartisan law passed unanimously by Congress requiring the agency to protect the health of infants and children.

The lawsuits ask the court to force the EPA to comply with the Food Quality Protection Act's key provision that requires the agency to protect infants and children 10 times more stringently than adults, unless it can show that children do not have special sensitivities or exposure.

"The EPA is ignoring the threat toxic pesticides pose to children who work on farms and other children who live nearby," said Aaron Colangelo, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

In 1998 NRDC and more than 60 other organizations petitioned the EPA in 1998 to address the risks pesticides pose to farm children, but the agency never responded to the petition.

"The EPA also illegally bases some of its most important pesticide safety decisions on a secret, industry-funded computer program that it refuses to reveal to the public," Colangelo said. "This is an unacceptable violation of the law and the public trust."

Congress inserted the stricter provisions to protect infants and children into the Food Quality Protection Act on the recommendation of the National Academy of Sciences, which found that infants and children are more susceptible and more exposed to many toxic pesticides than adults.

A year ago, the EPA's independent scientific review panel on pesticides found that the agency erred by failing to apply the tenfold safety factor when reviewing the cumulative risks of organophosphate insecticides, which are among the most dangerous pesticides on the market.

"Protecting children from the risks of eating food containing harmful pesticides is an essential function of government," said New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

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