Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 16, 2022


Jeannie Economos, Farmworker Association of Florida, (407) 694-8641,
Amy K. Liebman, Migrant Clinicians Network, (512) 579-4535,
Nathan Donley, Center for Biological Diversity, (971) 717-6406,

120-Plus Groups Call on EPA to Protect Black, Indigenous, People of Color From Pesticides

Urgent Changes Needed to Better Protect Workers, Fenceline Communities

WASHINGTON— More than 120 groups today urged Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan to put commonsense safeguards in place to better protect Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, as well as low-wealth communities, from disproportionate harm from pesticides.

The groups asking Regan to use his authority to fast-track stronger protections from pesticides include public health, environmental justice, conservation, science, farmworker, grassroots community-based, farmer and racial justice organizations.

The protective actions sought by the groups include:

  • Increasing monitoring and enforcement of pesticide use and harms.
  • Reducing accidental or unintended harm from pesticides.
  • Strengthening protections for children, who are more vulnerable to chemical harm.
  • Slashing export of harmful pesticides no longer used in this country to developing nations.
  • Setting more stringent standards for emissions from pesticide manufacturing facilities to protect fenceline communities.

“Pesticides are one of the most widespread environmental pollutants that we purposefully dump into the environment and their societal harms are unequally being borne by Black and brown communities across the country,” said Robert Bullard, director of the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at Texas Southern University. “The EPA can, and must, move aggressively to right this long-ignored injustice.”

Today’s letter follows the publication of a peer-reviewed study earlier this year in the academic journal BMC Public Health finding widespread evidence of greater pesticide exposure and harm in communities of color and low-income communities in both residential and workplace settings.

The study, conducted by researchers at historically Black colleges and universities and farmworker, racial justice and conservation groups, recommended seven actions the United States should take to reduce or eliminate the racial and income disparities of pesticide harm.

“For far too long, the people who harvest our food have been exposed to and contaminated by agricultural pesticides in the course of their daily work,” said Jeannie Economos, the pesticide safety and environmental health project coordinator at Farmworker Association of Florida. “This is a blatant case of environmental injustice, and we are calling on Administrator Regan not to delay in taking significant action now."

Today’s letter expanded on that work and identified nine actions the EPA can take right now without any congressional action needed.

“People around the world are suffering from the regressive pesticide policies of the U.S., and it’s the marginalized communities paying the highest price,” said Fatemeh Shafiei, director of environmental studies and associate professor of political science at Spelman College. “It doesn’t have to be this way, and we know how to stop it. We just need the administrator to step up and say ‘enough is enough.’ ”

The actions requested by the groups are focused on protecting the most at-risk groups — such as farmworkers and fenceline communities — from the manufacture and use of pesticides.

“These protective actions will reduce the overexposure to pesticides that farmworkers and their families regularly experience in the U.S. These pesticides have acute and chronic health repercussions for both farmworkers and their families,” said Amy K. Liebman, chief program officer for workers, environment and climate at Migrant Clinicians Network. “Robust regulations coupled with strong enforcement will go a long way to protect the health of these largely ignored but critically essential workers.”

“We’ve provided the EPA with a blueprint of what it needs to do to dramatically reduce the disproportionate harm pesticides cause every day to people living in marginalized communities,” said Nathan Donley, environmental health science director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Administrator Regan has the authority to make these changes that should have been made decades ago. All he has to do is use that authority.”

Farmworkers harvesting watermelons/Earl Dotter/Migrant Clinicians Network. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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