The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
5,000+ Schools at Risk of Toxic Pesticide Exposure if EPA Approves New GMO Pesticide
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.
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:
says it is working with the EPA to expand the list of states.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Charli Shield
At unsettling times like the coronavirus outbreak, it might feel like things are very much out of your control. Most routines have been thrown into disarray and the future, as far as the experts tell us, is far from certain.
By Elizabeth Henderson
Farmworkers, farmers and their organizations around the country have been singing the same tune for years on the urgent need for immigration reform. That harmony turns to discord as soon as you get down to details on how to get it done, what to include and what compromises you are willing to make. Case in point: the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038), which passed in the House of Representatives on Dec. 11, 2019, by a vote of 260-165. The Senate received the bill the next day and referred it to the Committee on the Judiciary, where it remains. Two hundred and fifty agriculture and labor groups signed on to the United Farm Workers' (UFW) call for support for H.R. 5038. UFW President Arturo Rodriguez rejoiced:
By Julia Conley
A council representing more than 800,000 doctors across the U.S. signed a letter Friday imploring President Donald Trump to reverse his call for businesses to reopen by April 12, warning that the president's flouting of the guidance of public health experts could jeopardize the health of millions of Americans and throw hospitals into even more chaos as they fight the coronavirus pandemic.
By Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner
Over six gallons of water are required to produce one gallon of wine. "Irrigation, sprays, and frost protection all [used in winemaking] require a lot of water," explained winemaker and sommelier Keith Wallace, who's also a professor and the founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia, the largest independent wine school in the U.S. And water waste is just the start of the climate-ruining inefficiencies commonplace in the wine industry. Sustainably speaking, climate change could be problematic for your favorite glass of wine.