GroundTruth Blog

Kristin Schafer's blog

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Seven years. Scientists tell us that's the window in the first years of life when children are most vulnerable to pesticide harms. That's also exactly how long EPA has — so far — delayed putting rules in place to protect kids from pesticides that drift from agricultural fields.

Bottom line? While regulators think about what to do, an entire generation of rural kids has experienced increased risk of harms that can last a lifetime. Health risks from early life pesticide exposure are very real, and can be serious. Science points to falling IQs, ADHD, learning disabilities, birth defects and, in some cases, cancer. That's why this week, we're taking EPA to court for being too darn slow.

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Update 7/18/13: After months of delay, Gina McCarthy was confirmed as the new head of EPA today. See this media statement for more details.

We hear the Senate will take up the confirmation of EPA's new leader next week. As we wait on the final vote, I've been thinking about what I'd say to Administrator-to-be Gina McCarthy if I had a chance to take her out for coffee and a chat as she gets ready to step into her new role.

Three things come to mind. First, I'd urge her to have the agency do a much, much better job following the science. Second, when that science points to human health or environmental harms, she needs to move fast — no dawdling allowed. And third, I'd remind her just exactly who she'll be working for. Because even though they don’t show up in suits on EPA’s doorstep every day (like the industry reps do), it's the nation's children she'll answer to in the end.

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Ed Brown's new movie Unacceptable Levels tells the story of chemicals in our bodies: how they get there, what it means to our health, how in the world it can be legal, and what we can do about it.

All this from the perspective of a young dad contemplating the food his family eats, the water they drink and that cute little rubber duck his kids chew on. Brown's personal journey, as he pulls back the veil on our chemically-saturated world, is well worth watching. I'll be at the film's July 11 screening in San Francisco along with other PAN staff — if you're in the Bay Area, please join us! Showings are also happening soon in Chicago and Austin.

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There's a new toxics bill in town. A few weeks ago, a draft law emerged in the Senate to overhaul the dramatically outdated national rules that govern "industrial chemicals" — aka the thousands of impossible-to-pronounce ingredients in everyday products, from household cleaners to couches, water bottles to children's toys.

Major reform of these rules is long overdue, but unfortunately the new bill is problematic. Unless significantly strengthened, it won't do enough to protect the most vulnerable among us — particularly our children — from the harms of toxic chemicals. We can, and must, do better.

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Don't do it, Senators. Yet again, an attempt is in the works to roll back protections of our streams and rivers — along with the critters who live in them and communities that rely on them — from harmful pesticides.

This time the push to weaken our national water law takes the form of two nearly identical amendments to the Senate's version of the Farm Bill (#1100 and #1103). The rollback effort first showed up as a proposed amendment to the China Currency Bill (no really!) in the fall of 2011. It's since been introduced several times as a stand-alone law, and showed up in a coordinated media push by conservative lawmakers. This is a bad idea that needs to be shut down once and for all.