Sen. Booker Announces Legislation Aimed at Banning Dangerous Pesticides

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Cory Booker

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) has announced the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2021 (PACTPA) that would remove dangerous pesticides within the agricultural system. Specifically, this legislation would update the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act of 1972 (FIFRA) by banning the most damaging pesticides that have been scientifically proven to harm the safety of people and our environment.

Each year, the United States uses more than a billion pounds of pesticides — nearly a fifth of worldwide use. Once they’re approved, pesticides often remain on the market for decades, even when scientific evidence overwhelmingly shows a pesticide is causing harm to people or the environment. In 2017 and 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency registered more than 100 pesticides containing ingredients widely considered to be dangerous.

Approximately one-third of annual U.S. pesticide use — more than 300 million pounds from 85 different pesticides — comes from pesticides that are banned in the European Union. The pesticide regulation statute, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act of 1972 (FIFRA), contains many loopholes that put the interests of the pesticide industry above the health and safety of people and our environment.

“As we sit down with family and friends for Thanksgiving, let this day also be one of gratitude for the workers who have worked tirelessly to ensure we have food on our tables,” said Senator Booker. “Farmworkers are often exposed to dangerous and toxic pesticides, risking their health as they work to provide our food. It is imperative that we address this issue directly by updating our laws in order to protect farmworkers, frontline communities, and our environment.”

Specifically, the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2021 (PACTPA) would provide desperately-needed improvement to FIFRA that would better protect people and the environment, including:

  • Bans some of the most damaging pesticides scientifically known to cause significant harm to people and the environment:
  • Organophosphate insecticides, which are designed to target the neurological system and have been linked to neurodevelopmental damage in children;
  • Neonicotinoid insecticides, which have contributed to pollinator collapse around the world (the European Union and Canada have significantly restricted or banned their use to protect pollinators and other wildlife) and have recently been shown to cause developmental defects, heart deformations, and muscle tremors in unborn children;
  • Paraquat, which is one of the most acutely toxic herbicides in the world —according to the EPA, just “one sip can kill.” Science has shown that chronic exposure to paraquat increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by 200% to 600%. It is already banned in 32 countries, including the European Union.
  • Restores balance to protect ordinary citizens by removing dangerous pesticides from the market by:
  • Creating a petition process to enable individual citizens to petition the EPA to identify dangerous pesticides so that the EPA would no longer be able to indefinitely allow dangerous pesticides to remain on the market;
  • Closing dangerous loopholes that have allowed the EPA to issue emergency exemptions and conditional registrations to use pesticides before they have gone through full health and safety review by the agency;
  • Enabling local communities to enact protective legislation and other policies without being vetoed or preempted by state law;
  • Suspending the use of pesticides deemed unsafe by the E.U. or Canada until they are thoroughly reviewed by the EPA.
  • Provides protections for frontline communities that bear the burden of pesticide exposure by:
  • Requiring employers of farmworkers to report all pesticide-caused injuries to the EPA, with strong penalties for failure to report injuries or retaliating against workers;
  • Directing the EPA to review pesticide injury reports and work with the pesticide manufacturers to develop better labeling to prevent future injury;
  • Requiring that all pesticide label instructions be written in Spanish and in any language spoken by more than 500 pesticide applicators.

Senators Gillibrand (D-NY), Sanders (I-VT), Warren (D-MA), and Padilla (D-CA) co-sponsored this legislation.

A list of the organizations endorsing the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act can be found here.

The full text of the legislation can be viewed here.