Lori Ann Burd, Center for Biological Diversity, (971) 717-6405, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fifteen Conservation, Farmworker Groups Urge EPA to Protect People, Pollinators From Dangerous Pesticide Mixtures
Agency Has Approved Nearly 100 Pesticide Products Without Considering Harmful Synergistic Effects of New Chemical Combinations
PORTLAND, Ore.— Fifteen organizations representing more than 5 million members sent the Environmental Protection Agency a letter today urging it to follow through on its duty to protect people and the environment from dangerous pesticide mixtures. The letter comes on the heels of an investigation revealing that more than two-thirds of pesticide products the EPA approved for four major companies over the past six years contain mixtures that make them more toxic than the individual pesticides on their own. The information on synergy was found in publicly available patents filed by chemical companies, but apparently was not shared with the EPA by the chemical companies.
The letter also follows a yet-unanswered July 2016 petition asking the EPA to require pesticide companies to provide data on the synergistic effects of pesticide products when seeking approval for those products.
“The EPA has essentially ignored the well-known fact that pesticides, when combined, are often more dangerous than on their own,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Our request is simple and just makes good common sense: The EPA needs to require pesticide companies to disclose data on pesticide synergy and it needs to carefully and transparently consider this information in determining whether these chemicals are safe for use on our food and lawns.”
Farmworkers are on the frontlines of pesticide exposure and are frequently exposed to pesticides even when using the best precautions. Yet, the EPA has ignored how pesticide synergy may effect this vulnerable population.
“Federal regulators must step up and determine how the synergistic effects of pesticides are affecting farmworkers, especially pregnant women and their newborn children,” said Jeannie Economos, pesticide safety and environmental health project coordinator with the Farmworker Association of Florida. “This is a serious public-health issue we should all be concerned about.”
Beginning in 1984, the EPA’s own regulations specifically said the agency could request data and testing on pesticide synergy from pesticide companies, but in 2007 the agency deleted this provision, calling it unnecessary. As a result, the risks of synergistic combinations have been routinely overlooked by the EPA in its approval of pesticides for food, lawns, ornamental plants and everyday products.
“There is a major gap in the EPA’s knowledge when it comes to understanding the risks posed by pesticides,” said Preston Peck, policy advocate with Toxic Free North Carolina. “We have no idea how these chemicals interact with each other in the environment and should not be using them indiscriminately until that information gap is filled.”