EPA misinforms children about chemicals/pesticides

June 15th, 2001

Sent To EPA Personnel:

I expect that your home tour for children is meant to be shared by kids with their parents. It unfortunately fails to warn either party as to appropriate cautions for products discussed. This tour is an abrupt departure from advice previously incorporated in EPA/OPPT documents in which people are urged to seek natural alternatives to air fresheners (not discussed in this tour), pesticides, herbicides etc. Those documents also advised that, as per the 1996 FQPA, such materials were being re-registered due to the fact that the more vulnerable members of society were not protected under current definitions of product toxicity. Indeed, many of the products discussed on this home tour such as pyrethroids, pyrethrums etc, have not even been subject to re-registration scrutiny at this point in time. No such explanations are in evidence on this home tour until one specifically looks at the top 10 questions and find that you do, indeed, recognize the fact that poisons are NOT needed in the home to control weeds and pests.

You do make an excellent point when discussing vinegar and baking soda as cleaners which contain no toxic materials and will not contaminate food. However, in discussing the antibacterial cleaners in the kitchen, you make NO warning that they will contaminate food. The fact that you recommend controlling bacteria in the kitchen with these chemicals OR with “hot soapy water”, gives pause as to why the EPA is endorsing the use of the antibacterial products at all. EPA always states that registration does not constitute endorsement yet this site appears to do just that. If this were a television special I would wonder about corporate sponsorship altering program content.

This site is completely inappropriate for children as it makes it appear that every room in the house must contain poisons which are perfectly appropriate for adults to use according to the label. You also make it appear as if children can be made responsible for avoiding exposures in their toxic homes by not touching their “protected pets” for 24 hours after “spot” treatment or by washing their hands if their pets are wearing flea collars. You make no mention to the audience that these pesticides transfer themselves to upholstery/clothing fabrics and carpets where they remain for months or years! The inclusion of pesticide foggers in this site at all is a remarkable lapse in judgment due to the degree of contamination propagated by such items.

Your concept of exposure is limited to the concept of the “dose makes the poison” and make no mention of individual differences which make some individuals likely to have pollutant related illnesses or that our society is at risk for delayed illness from early exposures. As children, the elderly and the unborn are most likely to be harmed immediately or in delayed fashion, a significant number of household residents would be terribly damaged living in this, unfortunately, “typical” home. You include a very important point in a brief question about a child’s sibling who gets a rash from using polish. All you advised was to get that child latex gloves instead of advising parents about the true nature of sensitivities with such signs as asthma, hyperactivity, sleep disturbances, GI disturbances, skin reactions, learning problems etc. Any child living in that home would surely be at risk for all of the above.

Your site makes its strongest case when discussing “huffing”. However, you write as if only the intentional misuse of these products can cause brain damage. I assure you that routine, by the label, usage can do so as well – hence the removal of chlopyrifos from the marketplace and mandatory reductions in VOCs given off by paints etc. I became brain damaged from routine pyrethroid exposures in the workplace and this writing is taking many hours instead of the minutes it might have required just a couple of years ago.

There is no way to make poisons into a “kid friendly” concept and your site should be about the nontoxic home – how kids can recommend replacing common household toxics with natural products. Have a contest run nationally to take suggestions from school children to produce such a site and make that topic a source of instruction in the schools and PTAs.

This site must be removed from the EPA website as it protects neither the environment nor the consumer. If the EPA is determined to default on it’s enforcement responsibilities with regard to the personal and industrial use of toxic materials, you can at least not involve the children in this propaganda.

Sincerely, Barbara Rubin

Categories: EPA

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