WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) announced the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2021 (PACTPA) that would remove dangerous pesticides within our farm 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 over 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 — over 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.”

“Pesticide hazards haunt farm workers, especially those that are parents. No parent should worry that hugging their children after a long day of work could expose them to brain-harming chemicals. No pregnant worker should have to wonder what the effects will be on a developing baby. Just living in an agricultural community places farm worker families at the front lines of exposure to dangerous nerve agents. This silent risk extends to every consumer who could unknowingly put food with toxic residue on their family’s table,” said Teresa Romero, President of the United Farm Workers of America.  

“For our union, at the heart of the fight against harmful pesticides are countless tragic incidents of workers who experienced pesticide poisoning, and of parents whose children are dealing with developmental injuries, learning disabilities or other health impairments. 

“The Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act recognizes that our nation’s farm workers and consumers deserve better and puts an end to the unacceptable risks to our communities.”

“Farmworkers and their families are exposed to highly toxic pesticides in the fields where they work and the communities where they live,” said Iris Figueroa, Director of Economic and Environmental Justice, Farmworker Justice. “The reforms in this bill provide long-overdue protections for the essential workers who provide our food, facing significant risks to their own health as they do so.”

“Children and farmworkers should not have to risk suffering serious harm from dangerous pesticides, including many that are banned in other countries,” said J.W. Glass, EPA policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These critical reforms are long overdue. They’ll ensure that people’s health comes before the pesticide industry’s greed." 

“Exposure to paraquat increases risk for Parkinson’s disease — as well as causes lung damage and other issues. This herbicide must be banned,”said Todd Sherer, PhD, Executive Vice President, Research Strategy of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. “It is irresponsible to continue allowing a chemical on the market that is a known contributor to developing a neurodegenerative disease. In addition to the human toll, Parkinson’s brings a high financial cost to the individual and the government. Banning paraquat will reduce the number of people who develop Parkinson’s and ease the economic burden.”

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:
    • 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.