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States Sue EPA Over Pesticide Hazards for Kids

Albany (New York) Times Union
by Erin Duggan, Sept. 16, 2003

Spitzer accuses EPA of safety risks
Albany-- New York among four states filing lawsuit alleging violation of pesticide rules

Four state attorneys general, including New York's Eliot Spitzer, charged in a lawsuit Monday that the federal Environmental Protection Agency is failing to protect children from the risks of eating pesticide-tainted food.

Under the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996, the EPA must consider the effect of pesticides on children when reviewing the safety of the chemicals. The lawsuit, brought by New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey, asserts the EPA has failed to set standards on at least five pesticides for how much residue is safe for children.

"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," Spitzer said in a statement. "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."

Attorneys for the EPA were reviewing the lawsuit Monday.

"We don't have a detailed reaction on the specifics," EPA spokesman David Deegan said.

But Deegan added that the EPA has been providing successful oversight of pesticides in the United States to protect children, the general population and the environment.

More than 724 million pounds of pesticides are used each year by farmers in the United States to kill weeds and insects, according to Spitzer's office. The EPA approves these pesticides through a registration process. The 1996 law requires the EPA to consider in the registration process the unique health risks that pesticides pose to children, particularly in their diets.

Some pesticide-induced health problems, such as damage to the nervous system, cancer and reproductive dysfunction, can occur at lower doses in children than in adults, Spitzer's office said. Children are particularly at risk when they consume food with excessive pesticide residue because they are undergoing rapid growth and development and consume more food for their size than adults.

The susceptibility of children to the harm of pesticides influenced the 1996 law that the EPA must set pesticide residue standards 10 times stricter than those considered acceptable for adults.

Spitzer analyzed data from and participated in the ongoing regulatory review process at the EPA and said he 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 targeted in the lawsuit are Alachlor, Chlorothalonil, Methomyl, Metribuzin and Thiodicarb.

Those pesticides are commonly found on corn, soybeans, peanuts, fruits, wheat and many vegetables

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