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Daily News Blog

03
Aug

Tell Congress to Require EPA to Stop Ignoring People of Color in Setting Safety Standards—Agency Ignores People at Elevated Risk to Deadly Combination of Pesticides and Covid-19 Exposure

(Beyond Pesticides, August 3, 2020) The effects of pesticide use are important, yet ignored, factors affecting people of color (POC) who face elevated risk from Covid-19 as essential workers, as family members of those workers, and because of the additional or cumulative risk that pesticides pose. As a part of this deadly combination, exposure to pesticides occurs at work, in community parks, schools and playing fields, and through food residues. EPA is ignoring the real hazards resulting from a combination of exposures that is reflected in the statistics that have emerged—with farmworkers suffering a rate of coronavirus five times higher and landscapers three times higher than community rates. Why is this the case? Because pesticide exposure weakens the respiratory, immune, and nervous system and makes those exposed more susceptible to the coronavirus

EPA has the power to immediately, on an emergency basis, adjust allowable pesticide use and exposure, recognizing that we have alternative practices and products to meet food production and landscaping needs.

Tell Congress to require EPA to examine the contribution of pesticide exposure to Covid-19 and protect those at greatest risk, people of color.

Farmworkers and landscapers have been deemed essential employees during the coronavirus outbreak, but without mandated safety protocols or government assistance, have experienced an explosion in Covid-19 cases. Workers in these industries are primarily Latinx people of color, many of whom are undocumented. According to a report published by the University of California Los Angeles, Latinx Californians aged 50 to 64 have died from the virus at rate five times higher than white people of the same age.

Most people in the U.S. suffer from one or more chronic conditions identified as putting people at increased risk of dying from Covid-19. The diseases, which involve disruption of the immune system, include metabolic diseases of obesity, diabetes, liver, kidney, and cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases including asthma, allergy, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in addition to autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and lupus. The chronic inflammation induced by these diseases makes a dangerous heightened response to coronavirus more likely. 

While metabolic, respiratory, and autoimmune disease is widespread, the poor working conditions to which farmworkers and landscapers are subject put them at disproportionate risk of pesticide-induced diseases. Occupational exposure to pesticides is, in fact, a form of institutionalized racism, putting people of color at disproportionate risk of death from Covid-19. 

It is essential that when EPA weighs risks and benefits of pesticide use, it does not allow risks to workers and people of color to be ignored or undervalued. An appraisal of the contribution of pesticide use and exposure to health outcomes of Covid-19 is urgently needed. 

Tell Congress to require EPA to examine the contribution of pesticide exposure to Covid-19 and protect those at greatest risk, people of color.

Letter to Congress

I am writing out of concern for disproportionate risks to people of color arising from pesticide exposure during this pandemic. Please take emergency steps to require EPA to examine the contribution of pesticide exposure to the severity of Covid-19.

The effects of pesticide use are important, yet ignored, factors affecting people of color who face elevated risk from Covid-19 as essential workers, as family members of those workers, and because of the additional or cumulative risk that pesticides pose. As a part of this deadly combination, exposure to pesticides occurs at work, in community parks, schools and playing fields, and through food residues. EPA is ignoring the real hazards resulting from a combination of exposures—reflected in the statistics showing that farmworkers suffer a rate of coronavirus five times higher and landscapers three times higher than community rates. Why? Because pesticide exposure weakens the respiratory, immune, and nervous system and makes those exposed more susceptible to the coronavirus.

Farmworkers and landscapers have been deemed essential employees during the coronavirus outbreak, but without mandated safety protocols or government assistance, have experienced an explosion in Covid-19 cases. Workers in these industries are primarily Latinx people of color, often undocumented. According to a report published by the University of California Los Angeles, Latinx Californians aged 50 to 64 have died from the virus at rate five times higher than white people of the same age.

Most people in the U.S. suffer from one or more chronic conditions identified as putting people at increased risk of dying from Covid-19. The diseases, which involve disruption of the immune system, include metabolic diseases of obesity, diabetes, liver, kidney, and cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases including asthma, allergy, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in addition to autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and lupus. The chronic inflammation induced by these diseases makes more likely a dangerous heightened response to coronavirus.

While metabolic, respiratory, and autoimmune disease is widespread, the poor working conditions to which farmworkers and landscapers are subject put them at disproportionate risk of pesticide-induced diseases. Occupational exposure to pesticides may be seen as institutionalized racism, putting black and brown people at disproportionate risk of death from Covid-19.

Farmworkers and landscapers have been deemed essential employees during the coronavirus outbreak, but without mandated safety protocols, adequate regulatory review, or government assistance, have experienced an explosion in Covid-19 cases. Workers in these industries are primarily Latinx people of color, many of whom are undocumented. According to a report published by the University of California Los Angeles, Latinx Californians aged 50 to 64 have died from the virus at rate five times higher than white people of the same age.

It is essential that when EPA weighs risks and benefits of pesticide use, it does not allow risks to workers and people of color to be ignored or undervalued. An appraisal of the contribution of pesticide use and exposure to health outcomes of Covid-19 is urgently needed. Please mandate EPA to perform an emergency assessment of the contribution of pesticide exposure to Covid-19 vulnerability. To highlight the urgency of this assessment, EPA should be given three months to put in place temporary measures based on scientific literature and advice of medical personnel, with permanent measures to be codified within a year.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent issue.



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