US Rep. Nydia Velazquez on Tuesday introduced a bill that would ban organophosphates in food production in an effort to protect children, farmworkers and other vulnerable communities commonly exposed to the group of chemicals.
“The science has been clear for decades: this type of pesticide is a dangerous neurological threat to farmworkers and our children,” Velázquez said in a statement. “These pesticides during early life have been shown to lead to irreversible harm to the developing brain, which can result in long-term effects like attention disorders, autism, and reduced IQ.”
The move is the latest in a series of actions aimed at reducing US pesticide use, and comes as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is evaluating continued use of organophosphates, which commonly leave residues in finished food products.
Pesticide manufacturers and agricultural industry groups oppose a ban. A coalition of more than two dozen such groups sent a letter to the EPA in late July, arguing that organophosphates act as an “essential tool” for managing insect pests.
“The continued availability of this group of pesticides is important to US growers due the safety and effectiveness of these proven pesticides,” the coalition said in the letter.
The EPA recently banned food uses of a type of organophosphate called chlorpyrifos, an insecticide popular with farmers but shown by scientific research to cause neurodevelopmental harm to children. Critics say there are more than a dozen other organophosphates that should be similarly banned.
“Organophosphates are poisoning the farmworkers who pick the food we eat on our tables each day and causing long-term health consequences for their families and communities,” said Daniel Savery, a legislative liaison for the nonprofit legal group Earthjustice. “The only way to eliminate this exposure is to ban the use of organophosphates in food production.”
Last year, Earthjustice and several other environmental, community and farmworker advocacy groups filed a petition calling on the EPA to ban the pesticides, arguing that research shows many organophosphates are associated with reproductive harm or linked to cancer.
“We cannot allow any more farmworkers, especially farmworker women and their families, to be exposed to pesticides. The reproductive health of too many farmworker women have been harmed,” Mily Trevino-Sauceda, executive director of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, said in a statement. “Many have suffered complications during pregnancy. Too many children of farmworkers have been born with birth defects.”
In July, Velázquez was among a group of US lawmakers who sent a letter to the US Fish and Wildlife Service urging the department to phase out agricultural pesticides on National Wildlife Refuges. The USFWS has rejected calls for such actions, however, saying there are “appropriate and specialized uses of pesticides” for “management and conservation purposes.”