Pesticides: Improvements Needed to Ensure the Safety of Farmworkers and Their Children: RCED-00-40

March 2000
GAO Reports;3/14/2000, p1
Government Documents
Two laws principally govern the safe use of pesticides: (1) the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, which requires that pesticides be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for specified uses, and (2) the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act, which regulates pesticide residues on foods. In October 1998, the Natural Resources Defense Council and others petitioned EPA to identify children living on and near farms as a major identifiable subgroup for the purposes of the Food Quality Protection Act. EPA responded by funding several studies to assess the effects of farm children's exposure to pesticides. GAO found that comprehensive information on the acute and chronic health effects resulting from pesticide exposure does not exist, whether for farmworkers, their children, or the general population. Recognizing that pesticides can cause various illnesses, EPA introduced the Worker Protection Standard, which is intended to reduce farmworkers' exposure to pesticides. One of the standard's most important protections, according to EPA, is the time interval between when pesticides are applied and when workers may enter treated fields. However, EPA officials said that these intervals are not designed for children younger than 12 years of age who do farm work. Moreover, EPA has few guarantees that the protections afforded by the standards are actually being provided for farmworkers in general or to children who work in agriculture. GAO found that EPA regions have been inconsistent in setting goals for the number of work inspections that states should conduct, in defining what constitutes a worker protection inspection, and in overseeing and monitoring the states' implementation and enforcement of the standards.


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