Farmworker groups ask EPA to ban Dursban, Lorsban

A nationwide coalition of farmworker and community health groups, including the Farmworker Association of Florida, Thursday petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to immediately ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos, sold under the brand names Dursban and Lorsban, because it harms workers and their families.

Jeannie Economos, pesticide safety and environmental health project coordinator at the Farmworker Association of Florida, said a class of pesticides known as chlorphyrifos is widely used in Florida agriculture on nursery plants and vegetable crops.

Economos said the EPA banned the pesticide, manufactured by Dow Chemical Co., for residential use over a decade ago after two studies in the Northeast linked it to developmental problems in children.

“Why are they allowed to use it on farms when it was banned for residential use?” Economos asked.

The EPA states the pesticide in use since 1965 is undergoing registration review, a program that re-evaluates all pesticides every 15 years. It is applied to sweet corn, soybeans, citrus, apple and other fruit trees, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, broccoli, cauliflower and other row crops and is also approved for use on golf courses, turf, greenhouses, utility poles and fence posts.

Gregg Nuessly, professor of entomology and director of the University of Florida’s Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade, said that a ban of the product would have a detrimental impact on sweet corn growers. It is used to control the most difficult pest that attacks corn — silk flies. Its larvae feed on the cob and kernels of the crop valued at $150 million annually in Florida alone.

“I firmly believe that it is critical for continued production of sweet corn in the EAA because of its high efficacy against the corn silk flies,” Nuessly said, adding that other products don’t do the job.

“Growers are required to follow strict regulations when applying all pesticides, including observing pre-harvest intervals and re-entry times after applications,” Nuessly said

In December 2014, the EPA found that workers face unacceptable risks of acute poisonings from hundreds of activities involving chlorpyrifos. In 2015, EPA entered into negotiations with the pesticide industry to stop these uses or reduce exposures, but the negotiations broke down.

EPA told a court that regulatory action would be necessary, but more than a year has passed and EPA has failed to take action.

Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice filed the petition on behalf of United Farm Workers, League of United Latin American Citizens, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, National Hispanic Medical Association, Farmworker Association of Florida, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Migrant Clinicians Network, Learning Disabilities Association of America, GreenLatinos, and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.

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