Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The following story and appeal to pressure the US EPA about the use of farm pesticides near to schools and residential areas comes from the United Farm Workers.
Help Protect Children From Toxic Pesticides:
Luis Medellin and his three little sisters, aged 5, 9 and 12, live in the middle of an orange grove in Lindsay, CA--a small farming town in the Central Valley. During the growing season, Luis and his sisters are awakened several times a week by the sickly smell of nighttime pesticide spraying. What follows is worse: searing headaches, nausea, vomiting.

The Medellin family’s story is not unique. From apple orchards in Washington to potato fields in Florida, drifting poisonous pesticides plague the people who live nearby--posing a particular risk to the young children of the nation's farm workers, many of whom live in industry housing at the field's edge.

This situation also often exists in schools in agricultural areas where it's not uncommom to have a school next to a field. According to a November 7 article in the Salinas Californian, "When schools use pesticides on campus, they post a warning a day before. But when acres of farmland next to classrooms are sprayed with industrial-grade chemicals, often no sign goes up."

Gonzales resident Aurora Valdez said she's fearful pesticides sprayed near Gonzales High School, where her kids attend classes, will harm her teenage sons. She said she often prays to the Virgin of Guadalupe to keep her sons from experiencing what she said her husband, Francisco, went through 12 years ago after being exposed to pesticides. "I worry constantly about pesticides," Valdez said.

That's why the UFW and a coalition of environmental groups petitioned the government to set safety standards protecting children who grow up near farms from the harmful effects of pesticide drift--the toxic spray or vapor that travels from treated fields. We're also asking officials to immediately adopt no-spray buffer zones around homes, schools, parks and daycare centers for the most dangerous and drift-prone pesticides.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has taken the first step in addressing this problem--opening up the petition for public comment. It's a promising sign. The agency's leadership needs to hear that you think they're on the right track. Because they'll surely be getting an earful from the pesticide industry telling them to keep the status quo. In fact, industry interests like Monsanto and CropLife have already started weighing in. If we want EPA to do the right thing and put immediate pesticide buffers in place around homes, schools, daycare centers and playgrounds, we need to push back. Please help.

In the past, the EPA has not made this issue a priority--ignoring a law Congress passed that requires the agency to protect children from all exposures to pesticide, including pesticide drift. The agency is already three years overdue in setting safety standards that protect children from drift. But there is new hope with the Obama administration. Will you please add your voice to those calling for a change?
Thank you!
Please go to the link above to send the following letter to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
We appreciate the opportunity to submit comments on the Petition to Protect Children From Pesticide Drift and the Draft Guidance for Pesticide Registrants on Pesticide Drift Labeling.
After years of delay under the previous administration, I am heartened to see the first step toward making sure all of our nation's children are protected from exposure to pesticides.

In 1996, Congress required the EPA to set standards by 2006 to protect children from pesticides. This deadline passed 3 years ago and the job is only partially complete. It?s great that the EPA has made some progress banning the use of some pesticides in the home and on lawns.

However, you also must protect children from these same pesticides when they drift from treated fields into nearby yards, homes, schools, parks and daycare centers. The threat to children is real and these risks must be fully evaluated.

The EPA must adopt immediate protective buffers. Without these protective buffers, children face the risk of drift exposure to such dangerous pesticides. This is simply unacceptable and must be stopped now.

Finally, the proposed general label warnings, while welcome, are not adequate alone to protect children from pesticide drift. Please adopt immediate protective buffers for the most dangerous pesticides. It may be many years before this process is complete--and children are being threatened by exposure to pesticide drift right now.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments. I urge you not to let another growing season go by without taking action. The children who live, play, and go to school near our nation's fields and orchards are counting on you to protect them.

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