Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

5,000+ Schools at Risk of Toxic Pesticide Exposure if EPA Approves New GMO Pesticide

Health + Wellness

There are 5,609 American schools within 200 feet of farm fields that may soon be blanketed with massive amounts of a toxic defoliant linked to Parkinson’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and reproductive and immune system problems.

That’s the finding of a new Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis that shows that hundreds of thousands of children across the country will be at risk of increased exposure to the harmful chemical compound 2,4-D if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves a new weed killer mixture called “Enlist DuoTM” created by Dow AgroSciences (a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical Co.).

That apparently doesn’t worry the EPA. But if these rural schools were full of plants rather than children, the agency would be concerned.

When it comes to dousing crops with noxious chemicals, the EPA focused on buffer zones for plants, not people—according to the agency’s recent risk analysis of Enlist Duo, which is a combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate. In its assessment, the EPA called for a 200-foot buffer zone to protect non-weed plants from the product but glosses over the health risks to children. (Read more about EWG’s analysis of how the EPA got it wrong.)

The agency is in the process of deciding whether to approve Enlist Duo for use on genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybeans designed to withstand blasts of 2,4-D and glyphosate. If the EPA gives the weed killer combo a thumbs-up, the amount of 2,4-D sprayed in the U.S. by 2020 would increase three-to-seven fold the amounts used today, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates.

EWG’s map (below) shows that more than 18,000 schools are situated within 1,000 feet of a corn or soybean field that could potentially be sprayed with 2.4-D. And nearly one-third of them (5,609 schools) are much closer—within 200 feet! Forty-seven states have at least one school within 1,000 feet of a field growing corn or soybeans—and 41 states have at least one school within 200 feet.

Click on the image to access the map that shows locations of schools that are within 1,000 feet of soy and cornfields.

In its assessment, the EPA doesn’t mention schools. But it does take care to assess the risk to plants other than the weeds Enlist Duo is designed to kill (so-called “non-target plants”) if the mixture were to drift off the fields where it’s sprayed. If you’re a plant, the EPA thinks you might be in danger even at a distance of 1,000 feet. But Dow scientists promised the EPA that Enlist Duo won’t drift that far. The EPA took them at their word and concluded that if you’re a plant, you can be safe as close as 202 feet from a sprayed field—assuming the farmer sprays Dow's proprietary Enlist Duo formulation and not any other 2,4-D formulation (and follows all the instructions on the label.) 

Even if 2,4-D doesn’t travel more than 200 feet from a field where it’s used, Enlist Duo would put thousands of rural school children at risk. That’s not a trivial matter. Human exposure to 2,4-D has been linked to a number of health risks, including thyroid, immune system and reproductive problems, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and Parkinson’s disease.

The EPA’s assessment also doesn’t focus on the possibility of people inhaling 2,4-D, even though that’s one of the primary routes of exposure. Children in schools and daycare facilities closest to fields would be at increased risk whenever spraying takes place—both when school is in session and when children use the playgrounds or ball fields during summer break.

The 10 states with the most schools within 200 feet of cropland growing corn and soybeans are:

Note: The draft label for Enlist Duo includes proposed registration for Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Dow AgroSciences
says it is working with the EPA to expand the list of states.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A protest against the name of the Washington Redskins in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Nov. 2, 2014. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

The Washington Redskins will retire their controversial name and logo, the National Football League (NFL) team announced Monday.

Read More Show Less
The survival tools northern fish have used for millennia could be a disadvantage as environmental conditions warm and more fast-paced species move in. Istvan Banyai / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma

Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.

Read More Show Less
A mother walks her children through a fountain on a warm summer day on July 12, 2020 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Gary Hershorn / Getty Images

A heat wave that set in over the South and Southwest left much of the U.S. blanketed in record-breaking triple digit temperatures over the weekend. The widespread and intense heat wave will last for weeks, making the magnitude and duration of its heat impressive, according to The Washington Post.

Read More Show Less
If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus. blackCAT / Getty Images

By Joni Sweet

If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of burnt areas of the Amazon rainforest, near Porto Velho, Rondonia state, Brazil, on Aug. 24, 2019. CARLOS FABAL / AFP via Getty Images

NASA scientists say that warmer than average surface sea temperatures in the North Atlantic raise the concern for a more active hurricane season, as well as for wildfires in the Amazon thousands of miles away, according to Newsweek.

Read More Show Less
A baby receives limited treatment at a hospital in Yemen on June 27, 2020. Mohammed Hamoud / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Oxfam International warned Thursday that up to 12,000 people could die each day by the end of the year as a result of hunger linked to the coronavirus pandemic—a daily death toll surpassing the daily mortality rate from Covid-19 itself.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The 2006 oil spill was the largest incident in Philippine history and damaged 1,600 acres of mangrove forests. Shubert Ciencia / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Jun N. Aguirre

An oil spill on July 3 threatens a mangrove forest on the Philippine island of Guimaras, an area only just recovering from the country's largest spill in 2006.

Read More Show Less