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May 31, 2006

PESTICIDE REGULATION

Unions Seek Tougher Pesticide Rules

Letter to EPA administrator claims political pressure on agency scientists

Bette Hileman

Unions representing 9,000 Environmental Protection Agency scientists and other employees have written a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson asking him to strictly regulate more than 20 organophosphate and carbamate pesticides or to cancel their use altogether. The letter, released on May 25 by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), says agency managers and industry officials are exerting political pressure on EPA scientists to allow the continued use of these pesticides.

“We are concerned that the agency has not … summarized or drawn conclusions about the developmental neurotoxicity data received from [pesticide manufacturers],” the unions write. They contend that many steps in the risk assessment process are being eliminated in a rush to meet an Aug. 3 deadline to regulate the two types of pesticides under the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA).

In particular, the letter says, agency officials are failing to consider exposures to infants and children who commonly enter fields treated with these pesticides while accompanying their farm worker parents. Nor are officials considering that the workers and their children are exposed to pesticide drift in their homes.

The agency asserts that it is carefully evaluating the pesticides. “EPA has been reviewing all pesticides in question and applying new, stricter standards as required under FQPA, with a specific focus on the effects on children’s health,” says EPA Press Secretary Jennifer Wood.

CropLife America, which represents the agricultural chemicals industry, agrees that EPA is conducting a careful review. “Given the transparency and oversight being accorded to EPA’s activities on pesticide reassessment, it is very difficult to place any credibility on PEER’s assertion of political pressure being applied” to the process, says Jay J. Vroom, president of CropLife America.

In contrast, Aaron Colangelo, a health program attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says, “The political appointees at EPA, and their allies in the pesticide industry, need to back off and let scientists do their work without interference.”

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