For Immediate Release, February 2, 2023
J.W. Glass, Center for Biological Diversity, (813) 833-5301, firstname.lastname@example.org
Senate to Consider Legislation to Protect America’s Children From Toxic Pesticides
Sen. Booker Reintroduces Overdue Updates to Pesticide Law
WASHINGTON— U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) reintroduced legislation today to increase protections against exposure to toxic pesticides.
The Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2023 includes a ban on the highly toxic pesticide paraquat, which is known to cause Parkinson’s disease, as well as dangerous organophosphates and neonicotinoids.
The legislation addresses foundational weaknesses in federal law and the pesticide registration process that have resulted in U.S. approval of numerous pesticides already banned by many other nations.
“America’s farmworkers and children are being sickened by dangerous pesticides, including many banned in other countries,” said J.W. Glass, an EPA policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Sen. Booker’s bill proposes common-sense solutions that target the most harmful pesticides and close egregious loopholes in pesticide law. They’ll ensure people’s health comes before the pesticide industry’s greed.”
The bill proposes important changes to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act to better protect frontline farmworkers, children and agricultural communities from harmful, potentially lethal, pesticide exposure.
It also closes loopholes that the pesticide industry has historically exploited to keep dangerous products in use and requires the Environmental Protection Agency to prioritize reassessing dozens of hazardous products banned in the European Union or Canada.
“PACTPA represents a tremendous step toward fixing our broken pesticides laws and better protecting people and pollinators from toxic chemicals," said Jason Davidson, senior food and agriculture campaigner at Friends of the Earth. "Congress must finally address egregious loopholes that have allowed dangerous pesticides to poison our communities and environment."
The bill would also ban paraquat, which is already banned in 58 countries.
“Keeping paraquat on the market is endangering human health and sending the wrong message to farmers that need support for developing new strategies for weed management,” said Christina Stucker-Gassi, healthy food and farms manager at the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides.
“Science has shown that exposure to paraquat increases risk for Parkinson’s disease,” said Ted Thompson, senior vice president for public policy at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. “In addition to this human toll, allowing this chemical to remain on the market carries with it a serious financial cost to the federal government and American families. The United States is long overdue in banning paraquat, and this bill brings about necessary reform."
The bill would also ban organophosphate pesticides like chlorpyrifos and malathion, many of which have been linked to brain development issues in children, cancer, or endocrine disruption.
The legislation also proposes improved health and safety protections. Employers of agricultural workers would be required to report all pesticide-caused injuries to the EPA and would face strict penalties for failing to report, concealing information, or retaliating against workers.
“We work with farmworkers who are afraid to report exposure incidents due to fear of retaliation, and more often pesticide handlers aren’t receiving training on just how dangerous their mixing and spraying jobs are,” said Jeannie Economos, coordinator of the Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project for the Farmworker Association of Florida.
PACTPA would require all pesticide label instructions to be written in not only English but Spanish, as well as any language spoken by more than 500 farmworkers using a particular pesticide.
The bill would also ensure that state and local governments retain the authority to implement stronger measures to protect against pesticide exposure, including phase outs and bans. This is crucial because each year the United States uses over 1 billion pounds of pesticides — nearly one-fifth of worldwide use.
Once they’re approved, pesticides often remain on the market for decades, even when scientific evidence overwhelmingly shows a pesticide is causing harm to people or the environment. Approximately one-third of annual U.S. pesticide use — over 300 million pounds from 85 different pesticides — comes from pesticides that are banned in the European Union.
“This legislation upholds the basic democratic right of communities to adopt safety standards that are more protective than federal or state law,” said Drew Toher, community resource and policy director at Beyond Pesticides.
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.