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Partnerships for Change
NRDC has worked with many community-based organizations to defend people's right to a safe and healthy environment.

Recovering
from Katrina
Fighting for Green Space Cleaning Up Anacostia
River
Shielding Children from Pesticide Exposure Improving
Air Quality
in an Urban Neighborhood
Protecting Children From Rat Poisons Forcing Nuclear Waste Clean-up

Shielding Children from Pesticide Exposure
New York State, 1999 - present

Photo of an Empire apple
An Empire apple treated with conventional pesticides.
© NRDC

The Challenge: Infants and children are more vulnerable than adults to the dangerous effects of toxic pesticide exposure. And among young people, the children of farm workers and farmers are at particularly high risk of pesticide poisoning. Many are regularly exposed to pesticides in fields and even at home, through food, soil, air, drinking water and even contact with their parents' skin and clothing. To help protect children from these harmful toxins, Congress included a provision in the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 requiring the EPA to use stricter guidelines in reassessing the amount of pesticide residue allowed on food. The agency was given a decade to complete the process, with interim deadlines every three years. When the EPA missed the first two deadlines, NRDC and United Farm Workers sued the agency in 1999 to force compliance with the law. In 2001, the lawsuit resulted in a consent decree that set new deadlines for the EPA to reassess 11 of the most toxic pesticides. The EPA met its deadlines, but NRDC and its partners objected to the agency's approval of several very toxic pesticides for use on food, despite the health risks to children.

Working Together: Joining forces with groups including Farm Workers Legal Services of New York and the Mid-Hudson Rural and Migrant Ministry, NRDC filed a lawsuit in September 2003 accusing the EPA of failing to follow Food Quality Protection Act guidelines when evaluating pesticides that pose a risk to children. "The agency charged to protect children's health was ignoring the risk of pesticide exposure to one of the most vulnerable sub-populations -- children of farm workers," says NRDC attorney Aaron Colangelo. "This was an issue that disproportionately affected Latino children and children below the poverty line."

Today: In July 2004, the court rejected the lawsuit on technical grounds, ruling that NRDC had to present all of its arguments to the EPA before going to court. Stating that it has repeatedly made its concerns known directly to the agency through various means, NRDC is appealing the decision, hoping to receive approval to bring the case to court immediately. A ruling is expected soon.

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