March 27, 2002
and Records Integrity Branch
Re: U.S. EPA PR Notice 2001-X, Spray And Dust Drift Label Statements for Pesticide Products, Docket control number OPP- 00730A.
We appreciate the opportunity to comment on EPA's spray and dust drift label statements for pesticide products. Beyond Pesticides applauds EPA's acknowledgement that pesticide drift is a significant problem and hope that our comments and recommendations are incorporated in the final labeling requirements.
Beyond Pesticides believes that pesticide drift, especially in cases where humans, wildlife or sensitive areas are affected, is unacceptable. We cannot continue to knowingly expose people to toxic pesticides, when viable organic technologies exist. As Dr. Earl Spurrier of the National Agricultural Chemicals Association (now the American Crop Protection Association) said in 1984, drift "can be reduced but it cannot be eliminated entirely."
The label modifications are a good first step, and the new product labels should be at least as strong as the proposed language. However, to truly protect public health, EPA should consider the following: improving the definition of pesticide drift to include all forms of drift, requiring buffer zones around all sensitive areas, requiring notification for nearby residents, banning the most harmful pesticides, and banning aerial and other problematic spray technologies.
As a pesticide advocacy group, Beyond Pesticides receives letters, phone calls and emails every week from people affected by pesticide drift. Below is just a sample of victims that have been harmed by pesticide drift, as well as reports showing the need for immediate action to eliminate this unnecessary risk.
Pesticide Drift Is a Hazard to Human Health
A family from White Hall, Maryland has been exposed to numerous pesticide drift incidents. The neighboring farmer routinely sprays his fields with paraquat, 2,4-D, dicamba, and atrazine. On numerous occasions the farmer has failed to contain or manage his drift, allowing it to move onto their property and into their home. In the past eight years, their children have been exposed to these chemicals. They have complained of sore throats, headaches and burning eyes during and after the applications. Informal conversations with the farmer fail to stop their exposure so they have turned to the Pesticide Regulation Department of the Department of Agriculture. The Pesticide Regulation Department has failed to take any action to stop their exposure. Christmas tree seedlings and hardwoods have been burned and some completely destroyed by drift.
On the morning of November 8, 2000, children arriving at Mound Elementary School in Ventura, CA walked into a cloud of Lorsban, a pesticide containing the active ingredient chlorpyrifos, which had drifted from a neighboring lemon orchard onto school property. Two children were sent home because of symptoms of pesticide poisoning. Students and school staff complained of headaches, nausea and dizziness associated with the pesticide exposure.
A family from Los Angeles, California was exposed to pesticides when they were aerial applications on neighboring property. The mother was pregnant during the two applications that drifted on their property. Their daughter has had several developmental complications, including partial cleft palate, constant movement of the eyes and the need for open-heart surgery. Their windows were open at the time of the applications. Another child in daycare with daughter has similar health problems. There is no reasoning by their doctors and no family history of drugs or alcohol.
A schoolteacher in Sarasota Florida is concerned about pesticides that drift from a citrus farm and a golf course into an elementary school with over 500 students. She had to take medical leave from the exposure of pesticides that drifted into the school this past spring. About 40 people are complaining of health effects but are afraid of speaking up about the exposure for fear of losing their jobs.
In August 2001, a woman in New Freedom, PA was driving next to a home that was being sprayed with pesticides by the Chemlawn Company. The spraying was done on a regular basis at a home by the road. She is chemically sensitive from an earlier incident with two household chemicals. She has been chemically sensitive for eight years and cannot afford a lawyer. The drifting lawn pesticides caused extreme nausea, dizziness and tremors.
In August 2001, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report that reported over 230 people being sick after malathion was sprayed aerially during the Medfly Eradication Program. A Florida couple had to move after their home was contaminated by malathion that drifted as a result of the aerial application to a citrus grove west of their property. A toxicologist, a medical toxicologist and an immunologist recommended that the Ruys leave their home as a result of this contamination to avoid continued exposure to neurotoxic poisons found in their home.
In July 2001, residents of California's San Joaquin Valley were exposed to metam sodium. Twenty-four people were sent to the hospital with symptoms of nausea, vomiting, headaches, burning eyes, and shortness of breath. The manufacturer, Wilbur-Ellis Co., was determined to have followed county regulations in applying the pesticide. All members of the town of Earlimart were forced to evacuate their homes. There were approximately 150 people living in this predominately Latino farmworker community. The drift occurred due to a nearby sprinkler application of the soil fumigant.
A woman was exposed to malathion when she her husband moved to Mentor, OH not knowing that every summer the town sprayed malathion for mosquitoes and diazinon for cottony maple scale. In there home the windows were always open because they did not have air conditioning. At the end of the summer, Connie was extremely ill and had sever upper respiratory, gastrointestinal and kidney symptoms. She was in and out of hospitals for the next three years. She lost her teaching job and now can only work part time. She read a lot about her illness and suspected that her 'immune system had been overwhelmed by the insecticide spraying. She is now chemically sensitive and has a difficult time finding a job in a place where she will not have a chemical reaction.
In July 2001, parents of a 2-year old child contacted Beyond Pesticides. The pesticide Sevin was applied to fields near the home of the girl by aerial spraying. Her pediatrician has diagnosed her with having suffered from organophosphate poisoning.
A family in Indiana, PA was exposed to the pesticide Furadan when it was used near their home. The area where the chemical was sprayed was extremely close to the Fritsch's farmland, several tributaries, a pond and swampy areas. The Furadan label states that this chemical should not be used near water and is toxic to wildlife. The Pesticide Inspector, Dennis Culley found that the chemical was not used in accordance with the label. Barbara and her daughter have respiratory problems. Her youngest daughter has a seizure in 1986 and almost died, leaving Ms. Fritsch curious about the cause of this illness. Her cat also died suddenly. Penncap-M has also been found in their drinking water.
In July 2001, a couple from Letartus, WV contacted Beyond Pesticides after being exposed to the pesticide Aldrin, which had been applied in a neighbor's yard. After the incident, the woman's health became poor, and they were forced to move and abandon their belongings due to the contamination. The people next door had sprayed their lumber just 30 feet from the property line.
In Chico, CA a family was exposed to Parathion, Guthion, Paraquat, 2,4-D, Plictran while they were renting a home that was in the middle of an almond orchard. During this time, the woman was pregnant and they lost their son shortly after his birth. The landlord did not inform the Adam's family of the spraying. They became ill but did not know the cause of their illness until she was six months pregnant.
A boy in Dearborn, MO became ill due to many pesticides that are used near his family's home. They live in a tobacco-growing region and the land across from their house has been sprayed with pesticides. Their son had an extreme reaction after being outside playing in a field after its harvest. He also had another reaction after handling wood that was tapped and trimmed.
A woman in Marietta, GA was exposed to dimethyl-2, N-1-ethylpropyl-3, PRE-M, and Pendinsthalen to control a weed problem. When the pesticides were applied onto an area outside her apartment, she immediately became extremely ill. As soon as she witnessed the pesticide application, she reported it to the EPA. She was not notified of the spraying until the day after the spraying had been done. Sandra has been diagnosed with pneumonitis, a heart condition and hepatitis.
A woman in Madison, WI was exposed to pesticides when the city was spraying done for gypsy moths. Her lungs were burning up to three days after the spraying, she developed red sores on her upper eyelids and continues to have itchy skin. She came into direct contact with the pesticide drift. She felt a powdery substance and smelled a horrible odor. She had difficulty breathing and is highly sensitive to pesticides and glues. She was not given any notice about spraying the day she was hit.
In College Springs, IA a woman and her daughter were exposed to the pesticide Cromwell Fusion due to routine spraying of a soybean field adjacent to a baseball field. The pesticides drifted onto the baseball field and the woman was directly sprayed as well by the pesticide machine. She is now chemically sensitized as a result of this exposure. The woman's pesticide poisoning was diagnosed by a doctor, and her daughter was hospitalized overnight. She became worse after cleaning her daughter's baseball equipment. Both she and her daughter's health are permanently affected as a result of this exposure.
Pesticide Drift Affects Farmers' Livelihoods
A couple from Guernsey, Iowa has a five-acre farmstead in southeast Iowa. They are currently in the organic certification process. They grow vegetables, fruit, have flocks of laying hens, beehives and are starting cut flowers. They are in their third season as market gardeners and second as a community-supported agriculture farm. However, drift is affecting their livelihood as organic farmers. On two separate occasions they have been denied certification because of pesticide drift from a neighboring farm.
A tomato farmer from Harrisburg, AR was poisoned repeatedly for seven years by drift from the herbicide Facet. It is a selective herbicide used to control certain grasses in the production of rice. However, it is a very potent and dangerous chemical that is contaminating many off-target plants, some as far away as 5 miles. Tomatoes are highly sensitive to the effects of Facet, in fact, only one microgram can cause physical damage to the crop. In addition to health complications, this farmer lost a significant portion of his tomato crop during this seven-year period.
A man in Minden, IA was exposed to drift when his neighbor applied the pesticides during wind gusts of 15-25 mph. He lost thousands of dollars worth of peacocks, geese and ducks who died after being exposed to chemicals. The water in his drinking well was also exposed to the pesticides as a result of drift and was contaminated as a result of the exposure.
California Department of Pesticide Regulation Names Drift as Top Cause of Pesticide Poisoning
California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) released 1999 data of pesticide injuries in the state, which DPR collects and analyzes, under the direction of the California Environmental Protection Agency, to identify trends in pesticide poisoning incidents. The report, Summary of Results from the California Pesticide Illness Surveillance Program, identifies 1,201 suspected or confirmed cases of pesticide injury in 1999, up 203 reports from 1998 data. According to the report, 555 reports, or 46 %, pesticide illnesses were related to agricultural exposure incidents and 646 reports, or 54%, were related to non-agricultural exposure incidents. The most common pesticide poisoning incidents were due to pesticide drift, with 570 cases. The DPR states that most of the total increase from 1998 to 1999 could be attributed to a single drift incident in the town of Earlimart in Tulare County. A total of 63 cases reported to DPR involved children aged ten or younger. Because many pesticide-related illnesses go unreported, the surveillance program is not a completely accurate account of all pesticide poisonings in the state. The reporting system catches only a fraction of the actual poisoning incidents.
Pesticide Drift Poses Risk Miles from Point of Application
In a report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which focused on California data, independent scientific monitoring found dangerously high concentrations of chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate pesticide whose residential uses are being phased out, in the air that many residents breathe every day. The data shows that one-third of the ambient air monitoring samples from the San Joaquin Valley detected chlorpyrifos, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began partially phasing out last year, but remains the most widely used agricultural insecticide in California. According to the report, pesticide use in Fresno, Kern and Tulare counties puts more than 15 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the air each year, an amount equal to about one-third of the air pollution from most other area's industrial sources combined. In those three counties, more than 22,000 children, a population known to be more susceptible to the effects of toxic chemicals that cause damage to the brain, the nervous system and to development, attend school near sites of heavy use of toxic pesticides. Thousands of children attend schools directly adjacent to or surrounded by fields where pesticide use totals tens of thousands of pounds a year. Government and independent studies show not only that pesticides routinely drift from farm fields onto nearby school campuses, but that drifting pesticides pose serious health risks for people miles away from the fields.
It is crucial that stronger measures be taken to protect humans and the environment from pesticide drift. EPA's current proposed approach has many shortcomings, below are Beyond Pesticides' recommendations for minimizing the effects of pesticide drift:
1. The proposed label must prohibit drift from the application site to contact "people, structures people occupy at any time and the associated property, parks and recreation areas, non-target crops, aquatic and wetland areas, woodlands, pastures, rangelands, or animals." However for this to truly be effective, EPA must improve its definition of drift. EPA's definition of drift does not take into account all sources of drift. Excluding all drift that occurs after a pesticide application ignores some of the most important sources of drift, such as pesticide evaporation and pesticide-coated dust particles. This leads to proposed control strategies that are grossly inadequate for reducing off-site, airborne movement of pesticides.
2. Buffer zones must be established around homes, schools, hospitals and other sensitive areas. These areas will drastically reduce exposure to pesticides. In order to adequately protect against drift, buffer zones should, at a minimum, be established in a 2-mile radius around the sensitive areas and be in effect at all times of the day. Aerial applications should have a larger buffer zone, at least a 3- mile radius. Currently, seven states have recognized the importance of controlling drift by restricting pesticide applications in areas neighboring schools. These buffer zones range from 300 feet to 2 1/2 miles.
3. People that live, work or attend school near application sites have a right to know that they might be exposed to pesticide drift. Although Beyond Pesticides supports a two-mile buffer zone, if such an area is not designated, people within this area should be notified through signs, the newspaper and other media. Notification should state when and where a pesticide is to be applied, the name of the pesticide, the pesticide's adverse effects and how to get further information, such as an MSDS and product label.
4. Because completely eliminating drift is nearly impossible, the most harmful pesticides should be banned. These include: carcinogens, endocrine disrupters, reproductive toxins, developmental toxins, neurotoxins and pesticides listed by EPA as a toxicity category I or II pesticide should never be used.
5. Technical specifications have limited ability to control drift. Despite improved engineering of nozzles and determination of optimum droplet size, real world experience demonstrates that applicators are often not trained to use the technology correctly and frequently spray in weather conditions that promote drift. The fact that acute poisonings still occur with disturbing regularity (sub-acute or chronic poisonings are even more common) suggests that more of the same "technology enhancement" approach will not solve the problem.
6. There are serious knowledge gaps regarding the effects of airborne pesticides. Toxicological data on inhalation exposures are not available for most pesticides. Also, air monitoring data show that people are frequently exposed to multiple pesticides simultaneously in the air they breathe but the toxicological effects of exposure to multiple chemicals are unknown.
7. All outdoor use pesticides must be included in the label change. Based on the number of reports we receive regarding applications to control mosquitoes, these uses must not be exempt.
8. EPA should ban problematic spray technologies altogether and increase buffer zones. Aerial applications, which regularly lose 40% of the pesticide to drift, should be banned.
Finally, when making decisions regarding the proposed label changes, consider farmworkers and others that live near application sites, especially children who are more susceptible to the adverse effects of the pesticides, organic farmers that depend on pesticide residue-free crops for a living, and ecosystems that survive in a delicate balance.
Thank you for your
time and attention.