Pesticides and organic support
CEH works with national and state organizations to protect children, families, workers and rural communities from harmful pesticide exposures. Our work encompasses several areas of concern, including:
“Inert” ingredients in pesticides: CEH has exposed the health and environmental threats from the use of so-called “inert” pesticide ingredients, which include many chemicals known or suspected of being toxic. In 2006, we filed a legal petition with the U.S. EPA, calling on the agency to require labeling of 374 “inert” ingredients that have been shown to pose health or environmental risks. Three years later, hearing no response from the agency, CEH and Californians for Pesticide Reform sued EPA. In response EPA announced a “sea-change” in regulation of inert ingredients, but failed to implement any changes and eventually denied the petition. In 2014, we sued again, but a federal judge ruled that EPA’s flip-flop was acceptable, so we are now preparing next steps to address this ongoing issue.
Fumigant pesticides on strawberries and other crops: For decades, agribusiness continued to sell the fumigant pesticide methyl bromide, despite international warnings that the chemical posed a severe threat to the ozone layer. In California, the state’s $2.3 billion strawberry industry was especially hooked on the chemical, which was used to prevent plant diseases from organisms that live in the soil (organic farmers use field rotations and other sustainable techniques to avoid such diseases, without using chemicals).
With methyl bromide finally being phased-out, the pesticide industry looked to introduce new fumigant chemicals for California strawberries. CEH and other groups successfully fought the introduction of methyl iodide, a highly toxic, cancer-causing pesticide. We are now fighting the increasing use of chloropicrin, another cancer-causing fumigant sold for use on strawberries and other crops.
California spray eradication plans: When California regulators feared that an insect called the Light Brown Apple Moth would devastate the state’s farm economy, they ordered aerial spraying of pesticides over vast swaths of the state – with no notice or warning to residents of the sprayed areas. CEH fought the eradication plan’s secret spraying, and, with many other organizations, successfully stopped the state’s spraying.
Now CEH and our allies are fighting a proposal by California’s Department of Food and Agriculture that would give them unlimited authority to spray harmful chemicals virtually anywhere in the state, indefinitely into the future, with no notice or warning to people in communities where spraying is planned.
Supporting and protecting organic integrity: CEH works to support organic farming and the organic food movement, and our work has eliminated false labeling that threatened the integrity of the organic label. We are now working with CFS on ending threats to organic integrity from compost that may be tainted with pesticide residues.
See the CEH powerpoint, 10 Reasons Not to Use Pesticides.
Legal advocacy and litigation
CEH takes legal action to eliminate toxic health threats when our investigations reveal illegal chemicals in food. Our work has eliminated lead threats to children from imported candies from Mexico and has targeted high levels of a cancer-causing chemical in Pepsi and other colas. Most recently, we’ve found high levels of lead in some ginger candies and baking ingredients, and some baked goods and licorice. Our legal work is pressuring companies to eliminate these and other lead risks from food.
For many years, scientists, doctors, and many parents have been concerned about the plastic chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), a substance that can disrupt the bodies’ natural hormones and create serious health problems. Exposure to BPA has been linked to an increased risk for heart disease, miscarriages, breast and prostate cancer, reproductive health problems, altered immune function, and impaired cognitive and behavioral development in young children.
Faced with rising concerns and legislation in several states, companies that make products like baby bottles and sippy cups eliminated BPA from their products – but parents have no way to know what chemicals companies may be using to replace BPA.
A CEH investigation found that some sippy cups for kids, especially color-changing cups, may expose children to the same hormone-disrupting effects as BPA. Parents also should know that BPA remains in use, including in polycarbonate plastics, in the lining of canned foods, and in cash register receipts.
In 2013, California proposed adding BPA to the state’s list of chemicals known to cause serious reproductive health problems. The chemical industry immediately sued the state, stopping the listing process during the court review. In late 2014, the court upheld California’s scientific assessment of BPA, and the state is now reviewing BPA for addition to the list. CEH continues to advocate for consumer protection from BPA and from related chemicals that may have similar hormone-disrupting properties.
Supporting health and environmental protections
CEH works with leading state and national organizations in support of efforts to protect public health and the environment from harmful practices of the food and agriculture industries. For example:
- Protecting bees from pesticides: In 2013, CEH joined Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, beekeepers and others in suing EPA over its failure to address threats from bee-killing pesticides. The suit is ongoing.
- CEH is a co-plaintiff in a legal action aimed at providing meaningful opportunities for Californians to influence the state’s pest eradication programs.
- Ending the use of arsenic-based poultry feed additives: CEH joined CFS, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and other groups in pressuring FDA to withdraw approval of chicken feed additives containing the toxic chemical arsenic. FDA agreed to pull 3 major products but continues to allow poultry farms to use one arsenic-based drug.
- In 2015, CEH joined the Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups in calling on FDA to prohibit the use of 13 food flavoring additives that have been linked to cancer. NRDC, CEH and the other groups also petitioned FDA to ban the use of perchlorate as a food additive.
- In 2008, CEH joined CFS and other groups in calling on EPA to regulate nano-materials used in food packaging. The agency responded to the petition in 2015, agreeing to some regulations on nano-products.
- CEH is one of 53 major environmental, fisheries, organic and health groups calling for farmed fish to be disallowed from organic certification or labeling.
CEH Research Director is available to speak on topics around pesticides, health and the environment. See a presentation by Caroline at a 2014 Beyond Pesticides meeting.
CEH Media Director Charles Margulis is available to speak on GMOs; see his webinar on GMOs and the Threat to Biodiversity for the 2013 National Biodiversity Teach-in.