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Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez

Representing the 7th District of New York

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Velazquez Seeks Ban on Pesticide Linked to Parkinson’s

Velázquez Seeks Ban on Pesticide Linked to Parkinson’s
July 18, 2019
Press Release

Washington, DC –Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) has authored legislation to ban Paraquat, a toxic herbicide currently used in the United States. A wealth of scientific evidence has linked the chemical to Parkinson’s disease, thyroid conditions, respiratory problems and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), one small sip of Paraquat can be fatal to humans and there is no antidote. The herbicide’s toxicity has raised concerns about its exposure to humans, particularly agriculture workers.

“Paraquat is likely the most toxic herbicide employed in American farming at this time,” said Velázquez. “Its health effects are well documented, and I believe it is time we remove this dangerous chemical from commerce.”  

Over the last 19 years, 17 people have died from accidentally drinking Paraquat, while another three were killed after the pesticide entered their bodies through their skin and eyes.  Lower dose exposure can cause eye damage, kidney or heart failure, lung sores, and liver injury.
Meanwhile, populations that work with or live near Paraquat show much higher risk for Parkinson’s Disease. One analysis found that farmers involved in the mixing or application of Paraquat had a 200 percent higher incidence of Parkinson’s disease.  Other studies suggest that the chemical increases an individual’s risk of developing Parkinson’s by 320 percent. 

The chemical has already been banned in 32 nations, including China, which is home to ChemChina, the firm that owns the chemical’s manufacturer.  It has also been banned in many European Union nations.

“This chemical has enormous public health risk and it is time for the U.S. to ban it,” Velázquez added.  “The U.S. must follow the example of other countries and keep this product away from workers and families.”

Her bill, the “Protect Against Paraquat Act”, would require the EPA to de-register the chemical, essentially banning it in the U.S. 

The bill has been endorsed by a wide range of organizations including: the Michael J. Fox Foundation, Farmworker Justice, CATA - El Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas (The Farmworkers' Support Committee), Pesticide Action Network, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste,  Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, The Parkinson Alliance and The Parkinson’s Unity Walk, The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, The Davis Phinney Foundation, Parkinson Association of the Rockies, Hawai'i Parkinson Association, Brian Grant Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Greenhorns, The American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA), The Parkinson's Foundation, Food & Water Watch, The Parkinson Alliance, that Power for Parkinson's, Experimental Farm Network, Friends of the Earth, Brian Grant Foundation, Sequoia Forest Keeper, Roots Action, Conservation Congress, Green America, Earthjustice, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, Beyond Pesticides and the Farmworker Association of Florida. 

“We support a ban on the herbicide paraquat, because exposure to it increases risk for Parkinson’s disease,” said Todd Sherer, PhD, CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. “More than one million Americans live with Parkinson’s, and it would be irresponsible to continue to allow the use of a chemical that is a known contributor to this disease. Parkinson’s costs the U.S. $52 billion each year, with more than $25 billion of that shouldered by government programs including Medicare and Social Security. Banning paraquat will help ease the future burden on those programs, by helping to reduce the number of people who develop Parkinson’s.”
 
“Dangerous chemicals like paraquat have no place in our food system. Rep. Velazquez’s bill is a sensible approach toward making our food supply safer,” said Brian Siu, director of federal affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council. 

“It’s nothing short of alarming that paraquat use has nearly doubled in the U.S. at the same time it’s being outlawed in China, Brazil and Europe,” said Emily Knobbe, EPA policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We are grateful that Rep. Velazquez introduced this long-overdue bill to finally ban this dangerous herbicide that our own EPA calls ‘extremely’ toxic to plants and animals.”

Velázquez’s bill has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture and Energy and Commerce.