States Sue EPA for Failing
to Protect Children From Pesticides
Department of Law
New York, NY 10271
For More Information:
For Immediate Release
September 15, 2003
New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer,
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Massachusetts Attorney
General Tom Reilly and New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey today
sued the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to
protect children from the risks of eating food containing excessive
Children are far more susceptible to harm
from pesticide residue on food because of their developing bodies and
different diets. Prior to 1996, the EPA's limits on allowable food
pesticide residues were based solely on data on adults. Congress
unanimously passed the Food Quality Protection Act in 1996 to change
this practice and required EPA to ensure that pesticide residues are
safe for children.
In this lawsuit, New York, Connecticut,
Massachusetts and New Jersey assert that EPA has failed to do so. The
lawsuit focuses on five pesticides widely used on crops often consumed
by children, but notes that the EPA has failed to set residue standards
at levels safe for children on many other pesticides as well.
"Parents reasonably expect that
every effort has been made by the federal government to ensure that
pesticide residues in the food they give their children are safe,"
said New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. "This is not always
the case. Sadly, the Environmental Protection Agency has failed to meet
Congressional requirements to protect children from the risks of
consuming food with unhealthy pesticide residues."
Connecticut Attorney General Richard
Blumental said: "The EPA's failure to protect children from
poisonous pesticides is unconscionable and unlawful. It makes everyday
foods potential poison traps. Pesticides kill pests because they disrupt
and destroy vital life systems - and can have the same toxic effects on
children if their residues remain on food."
Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly
said: "The EPA needs to do its job to ensure that the foods we are
feeding our children are safe to eat. Federal law requires that the EPA
set standards for allowable levels of pesticide residues - today's legal
action is intended to protect our most vulnerable population, our
New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey
said: "This lawsuit focuses on pesticides used on foods that
parents feed their children every day, including corn, wheat, rice,
peanuts, carrots, squash, apples and bananas. Congress sought to ensure
that children would be safe from toxic pesticides by requiring strict
residue standards. By waiving or reducing the additional safety factor
in the absence of adequate scientific research, the EPA has potentially
put children at risk."
More than 724 million pounds of
pesticides are used each year by farmers in the United States to kill
weeds and insects. The EPA approves these pesticides through a
registration process, which, since 1996, must consider the unique health
risks that pesticides pose to children, particularly in children's
diets. Pesticides can cause a range of health problems including damage
to the nervous system, cancer, reproductive dysfunction, and damage to
the immune and endocrine systems. Some of these health problems occur at
lower doses in children than in adults.
Children are particularly at risk when
they consume food with excessive pesticide residue because they:
- are undergoing rapid growth and
- do not have mature metabolic functions
to deal with the toxicity of the pesticide residues; and,
- consume more food for their size than
Because of the special susceptibility of
infants and children to pesticides, the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act
directed the EPA to set pesticide residue standards ten times stricter
than those considered acceptable for adults. This tougher standard can
be waived only when there is comprehensive scientific information
showing that a lesser standard is still safe for children.
Child health and public health advocates
applauded the lawsuit filed by the four states.
Erik Olson, Senior Attorney with the
Natural Resources Defense Council said: "We applaud the Attorneys
General for suing the Bush Administration to protect our children from
toxic pesticides. Unless the Bush administration is brought into court,
it will continue to be more concerned with protecting the chemical
industry and big agribusiness."
Ken Cook, President of Environmental
Working Group, said: "We commend New York Attorney General Eliot
Spitzer, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Massachusetts
Attorney General Tom Reilly and New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey
for this historic litigation. It is unfortunate that the states had to
file a lawsuit to get the Bush Administration to enforce a law designed
to protect infants and children from toxic pesticides."
Dr. Philip Landrigan, Director of the
Center for Children's Health and the Environment at Mount Sinai School
of Medicine said: "As a pediatrician who chaired the National
Academy of Sciences Committee on Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and
Children, the committee that built the foundation for the Food Quality
Protection Act, I am distressed that EPA is not following our
committee's clear recommendation to presume in every case that children
are uniquely vulnerable to pesticides. When no studies of the
developmental toxicity of a pesticide have been undertaken, EPA should
automatically incorporate a child-protective, FQPA safety factor into
risk assessment. Too often, EPA has failed to take that critical
Jay Feldman, executive director of the
national group Beyond Pesticides, said: "EPA is in violation of a
basic tenet of law that is intended to protect children from pesticides,
and was passed by Congress in response to overwhelming scientific
evidence that children are very vulnerable to toxic exposure."
The New York Attorney General has analyzed and participated in the
on-going regulatory review process at the EPA and determined that a
number of pesticides were approved by the EPA without the mandatory
stringent safety margin required to protect children's health.
The five pesticides that are widely used
on children's food and which are the subject of the lawsuit are:
Alachlor, Chlorothalonil, Methomyl, Metribuzin, and Thiodicarb.
According to the EPA's own data, each of the targeted pesticides is
found on food that is frequently consumed by children.