SAN FRANCISCO, California,
June 8, 2005 (ENS): A coalition of farm workers, environmental
and public health groups filed suit against the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) Tuesday, charging the agency with ignoring
the special risk to children growing up surrounded by chemical poisons
"Children of farm workers breathe pesticides that drift from
the fields, and they often live, play, and go to school right next
to pesticide-treated orchards," said Erik Nicholson of the
United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO, which represents tens of
thousands of farm workers whose families can be exposed to pesticides.
"It’s common sense to protect our kids, but EPA is ignoring
The plaintiffs charge that the EPA has failed to consider farm
kids’ heightened exposure risks when setting allowable pesticide
standards for food.
More than a million children of farm workers live near farms in
this country, and more than 300,000 farmers’ children under
the age of six live on farms. These children are exposed to hazardous
pesticides, from their food, the air, soil and water, and from the
clothes of their parents, according to a growing body of scientific
Children are especially vulnerable to toxic effects of pesticides
on their developing brains, and bodies.
The plaintiffs say the EPA is ignoring scientific evidence that
farm children face increased health risks because of pesticide exposure.
The groups point to scientific studies that find children are more
vulnerable to pesticide exposure than adults, in part because their
bodies and brains are still developing.
They also eat more fruits and vegetables and drink more water for
their size, and have more hand-to-mouth contact with dust, dirt
and floors. They come into contact with pesticides that drift from
fields into their homes, play areas and schools.
When parents return from fields, their children are exposed to
hazards simply from touching their clothing, hair and skin. Farm
children often play near recently sprayed fields and sometimes swim
in irrigation canals filled with water contaminated with pesticides.
Pesticide exposure is linked to neurological disorders, such as
Parkinson’s disease, reduced cognitive functioning and reduced
coordination; developmental delays in infants and children; reproductive
harms, such as infertility, stillbirths, birth defects and musculoskeletal
defects; and cancer, including brain tumors, leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s
lymphoma, sarcoma and Wilm’s tumor, the groups point out.
In October 1998, the plaintiffs petitioned EPA to identify farm
children as meriting special consideration. The groups are suing
the federal agency for failing to respond to the petition within
a reasonable amount of time.
"We can no longer wait patiently while we hear every day from
communities and individuals directly affected by toxic pesticides,"
said Margaret Reeves, Ph.D., senior scientist with Pesticide Action
Network North America. "It’s time to light a fire under
EPA to force it to act to protect farm children’s health."
The lawsuit is being filed against EPA and its administrator, Stephen
Johnson, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of
The plaintiffs are Pesticide Action Network North America; United
Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO; the Natural Resources Defense
Council (NRDC); Clean Water Action; and Northwest Coalition for
Alternatives to Pesticides.
Farmworker Justice Fund and NRDC are serving as co-counsel for
the plaintiffs who are asking the court to rule that the EPA’s
failure to respond to their 1998 petition was unlawful and to compel
the agency to respond within 90 days.
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