Farmworker Groups Ask EPA Administrator to Protect Farmworker Communities, Reconsider Hazardous Pesticide Use Decision, and Uphold Environmental Justice

Jun 18, 2009, 12:18 ET from Beyond Pesticides

WASHINGTON, June 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Farmworker unions, support groups, and worker advocacy organizations today asked Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson to stop the pesticide poisoning of farmworker communities and uphold the Obama administration's commitment to environmental justice. Citing a long EPA history of "inhumane neglect of toxic pesticide effects on farmworker community health," the groups asked the Administrator to amend a recent May 2009 decision that allows the continued use of hazardous soil fumigant pesticides. The chemicals when used in chemically treated crop production, such as tomatoes, carrots, strawberries and nuts, escape into the environment and drift into communities where the families and children of farmworkers live and play.

The letter, signed by 28 groups from across the country, says that the new fumigants policy "continues an outdated EPA approach to pesticide regulation that adopts unrealistic and unenforceable standards as risk mitigation measures, in an age of safer, greener approaches to agricultural pest management."

EPA announced its decision May 27, 2009 to allow continued use of toxic soil fumigants with modified safety measures, falling far short of safety advocate efforts to adopt more stringent use restrictions and chemical bans. The rule was first proposed in July 2008, but weakened as it was finalized by EPA under industry pressure. Advocates believe that the country can do better to phase out the uses of highly hazardous chemicals that have devastating impacts on exposed workers and communities.

Pesticides affected by the decision include chloropicrin, dazomet, metam sodium/potassium (including methyl isothiocyanate or MITC), methyl bromide. Fumigants are associated with a range of acute respiratory and central nervous system effects, nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, tremors and incoordination, muscle weakness, and skin irritation. Long term effects can include brain damage and seizures.

See letter and contacts with phone numbers at

Beyond Pesticides, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Californians for Pesticide Reform, Campesinas Unidas de Tulare County, Center on Race Poverty and the Environment, Centro Campesino, Coalition for Clean Air, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, El Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas, El Quinto Sol de America, Environment California, Environmental Youth Council, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, Farm Worker Pesticide Project, Farmworker Association of Florida, Farmworker Justice, Farmworker Self-Help, Just Transition Alliance, Lideres Campesinas, National Farmworker Ministry, Pesticide Action Network North America, Physicians for Social Responsibility - Los Angeles, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, South Texas Colonia Initiative, Southern Poverty Law Center, The Farmworker Health and Safety Institute, United Farm Workers, AFL-CIO

SOURCE Beyond Pesticides