(NaturalNews) A 1996 federal law required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to study the safety of all pesticides and to rule by 2006 whether they could be used on foods safely. The EPA found four pesticides posed risks to human health but decided they saved growers so much money their use outweighed the dangers of the chemicals.
Now a group of farm worker advocates and environmentalists, including the United Farm Workers, the Teamsters, Pesticide Action Network North America, Beyond Pesticides and the Natural Resources Defense Council, has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco against the Bush administration saying the EPA should not have turned its back on its own findings and allowed pesticides that pose a danger to animals, children and adults to be sprayed on vegetable and fruit crops.
The suit calls for a court order that would require the EPA to re-assess the pesticides. According to Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law firm that represents the coalition, the chemicals mentioned in the lawsuit specifically are four deadly organophosphate pesticides derived from nerve gas developed during World War II. Some of these pesticides have been detected in California's schoolyards, homes, Sequoia National Park, and Monterey Bay.
Ethoprop, one of the pesticides used on potatoes, sugar cane and tobacco, has been linked to fish kills and is classified by California authorities as a carcinogen.
Another chemical listed in the lawsuit, methidathion (used on artichokes, peaches, oranges, almonds, and olives) is classified as an air contaminant by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation because of potential health hazards.
The two other pesticides in question are methamidophos, used primarily on cotton and potatoes, and oxydemeton-methyl, sprayed on cabbage, corn, broccoli, lettuce, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Both have been associated with bird kills and the lawsuit claims oxydemeton-methyl is suspected of causing birth defects.
EPA has documented that children are especially susceptible to organophosphate exposure which can cause dizziness, vomiting, convulsions, numbness in the limbs, loss of intellectual functioning, and death. In addition, organophosphates have also been shown to cause hormone disruption, birth defects, and cancer.
"Farm workers and people living in and near agricultural regions, especially children, are at great risk of neurological and developmental damage due to exposure to these toxins," said Dr. Margaret Reeves, senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network North America, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed April 4, 2008.
"These four pesticides put thousands of farm workers and their families at risk of serious illness every year," said Patti Goldman, an attorney for Earthjustice. "It is inexcusable for the EPA to allow use of pesticides that they know are harming people, especially children."
EPA spokesman Tim Lyons refused to comment on the suit or the EPA's ruling to allow the pesticides to be used.
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