Environmentalists call for stronger pesticide regs to protect children

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not doing enough to protect children in rural areas from exposure to harmful pesticides that drift from farm fields to neighboring communities, according to accusations from environmental and health advocates.

Earthjustice, Farmworker Justice and several other groups are seeking a court order that would force the EPA to strengthen its pesticide regulations by requiring spray buffers in areas around children's homes, schools, and daycares.

"We know kids are particularly vulnerable to pesticides in the first seven years of life," Erik Nicholson, National Vice-President of the United Farm Workers, another group suing the agency, said in a statement. "EPA's refusal to act means another entire generation of children will be exposed to harmful pesticides — this is both unnecessary and unacceptable. And farmworker children currently bear and will bear the heaviest burden."

The EPA already regulates pesticides, but critics say those rules do not account for drifts that move pesticides off farm fields. 

The groups said children are particularly vulnerable to pesticides, because they are shorter and closer to the ground where the pesticides are sprayed.

"Studies show that farmworker children are not only exposed to pesticides that drift in the air and contaminate the water in rural areas, they also face exposure from residues of the chemicals brought into the home on their parents work clothes and skin," the groups wrote. 

Some of the other groups to join the lawsuit include the Pesticide Action Network North America, United Farm Workers of America, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sea Mar Community Health Center, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.