Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on issues related to the safety of children who may be exposed to pesticides in agricultural settings, focusing on: (1) what federal requirements govern the safe use of pesticides, particularly as they relate to protecting children in agricultural settings; (2) what information is available on the acute and chronic effects of agricultural pesticide exposure, particularly on children; and (3) what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has done to ensure that its Worker Protection Standard considers the needs of children and is being adequately implemented and enforced.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Environmental Protection Agency||1. To better understand the overall risks that pesticides pose for farmworkers and their families as well as for the general public, the Administrator, EPA, should work with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the National Center for Environmental Health to implement their suggestions for improving the quality of information on acute pesticide illnesses in the nation, including establishing time frames, assigning responsibilities, and identifying resource needs and sources to accomplish this important objective.|
|Environmental Protection Agency||2. The Administrator, EPA, should identify and expeditiously implement steps to mitigate the potential adverse effects of pesticide exposure on children below the age of 12 who work in agriculture or are otherwise present in pesticide-treated fields. Such steps might range from warning farmworker parents about the adverse effects that agricultural pesticides may have on their young children to having pesticide labels clearly state that children should not enter pesticide-treated agricultural areas for specified periods.|
|Environmental Protection Agency||3. The Administrator, EPA, should complete the documentation supporting EPA's conclusion that the Worker Protection Standard's entry intervals adequately protect children 12 years of age and older, and provide the documentation to the Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee for its review.|
|Environmental Protection Agency||4. The Administrator, EPA, should improve EPA's oversight of the states' implementation and enforcement of the Worker Protection Standard by, among other things: (1) clearly defining what constitutes a worker protection inspection for the purposes of the cooperative agreements; (2) establishing goals for the minimum number of worker protection inspections that states should conduct annually under their cooperative agreements; (3) examining whether the resources states dedicate for this function under the cooperative agreements are adequate to achieve the goals established; (4) clarifying the roles and responsiblities of EPA's regional offices to ensure consistency in their oversight of the program; and (5) taking the necessary steps to obtain and analyze data on the results of the states' worker protection inspections, including the number and types of actions taken in response to worker protection violations.|