Sweeping Senate pesticide law overhaul protects kids, farmworkers and everyone

WASHINGTON – Legislation introduced today would ban or restrict scores of the most toxic pesticides, set health-based limits on pesticide use and registration, and create safety protections for farmworkers. If passed, it would be the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. pesticide law in almost 25 years.

The Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2021 introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), would significantly strengthen the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA, to regulate the distribution, sale and use of pesticides. The bill would ban some of the most toxic pesticides used in the country, including all organophosphates, neonicotinoids and paraquat.

“We applaud Sen. Booker for this bold and much-needed proposal to overhaul the nation’s pesticide law, which puts the health and safety of children, farmworkers and all Americans first,” said Scott Faber, EWG senior vice president for government affairs.

The bill would also ban chlorpyrifos, which can damage children’s brains and was slated for phaseout by the Obama administration, a proposal reversed under President Donald Trump’s EPA. The Biden EPA in August then said it would prohibit all uses of the pesticide on food.

Booker’s bill would also ban malathion, which has been linked to increased risk of prostate cancer, and imidacloprid, which, like other neonicotinoids, poisons pollinator insects like bees.

Children are especially susceptible to health risks from pesticide exposure. The American Academy of Pediatrics, which urges stricter pesticide regulations, says evidence links early-life pesticide exposure to pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems. 

“Numerous studies show that existing EPA regulations for pesticides fail to protect children’s health,” said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., EWG vice president for science investigations. “The federal pesticide policy is in urgent need of reform.”

Under the proposed legislation, the EPA would be required to immediately suspend and review the use of any pesticide banned in the European Union or Canada. The list of such pesticides includes the notorious herbicide atrazine, which disrupts hormones, harms the developing fetus and contaminates the drinking water of millions of Americans.

“The pesticide industry and chemical agriculture have for far too long been able to abuse legal loopholes allowing for the use of toxic pesticides that have not been adequately tested to make sure they are safe for people and the environment,” Faber said.

“As a result, millions of Americans are exposed to dangerous pesticides in their air, water and food. Sen. Booker’s bill will rein in this largely unchecked explosion of pesticide use by agriculture and give the EPA much stronger authority to protect the public,” said Faber.

The legislation would also set new restrictions on the “conditional registration” loophole in the FIFRA law that allows pesticide manufacturers to get new chemicals approved and into the marketplace before the EPA has reviewed all the available science to determine whether they are safe.

The bill would also better protect farmworkers by requiring pesticide labels to be printed in English and Spanish, require employers to report injuries to farmworkers from pesticide exposure, and require the suspension of a pesticide when it causes a farmworker’s death.


The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action. Visit www.ewg.org for more information.

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