House Republicans exploit Zika virus fear to loosen pesticide restrictions, permit chemical dumping in water supplies
Submitted by: Veronica Coffin
by: Julie Wilson
While the rest of the world awakens to the damaging effects of pesticide pollution, officials in the U.S. are working to allow more pesticides into our water supplies. The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to loosen already weak pesticide regulations in a purported effort to combat the spread of the Zika virus. The latest version of the bill is called the Zika Control Act.
Opponents of the legislation say it’s being pushed for other reasons. Democrats, who largely voted against the legislation, have accused the GOP of passing the bill through deceptively, saying it’s already been considered (and rejected) five times under four different “guises,” according to The Hill.
They argue it will remove important protections instated by the Clean Water Act. If the legislation becomes law, pesticide applicators will be allowed to dump pesticides into bodies of water without a permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They will not have to report the contamination, either.
Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) said that adding more pesticides to water would threaten pregnant women – the same group the GOP claims to be protecting from Zika.
“I am very concerned about the effect of these pesticides on the health of our rivers, on our streams, and especially the drinking water supplies of all our citizens, including pregnant women,” said Napolitano.
Researchers with U.S. Geological Survey recently reported that 90 percent of urban streams are contaminated with pesticides above the allowable limit for aquatic life, compared to only 50 percent in the decade prior.
GOP uses Zika to ease pesticide regulations for chemical companies
Also criticizing the GOP is Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who says conservatives are using Zika to pass legislation designed to benefit chemical companies.
Congressman Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), the bill’s sponsor, says it will remove “duplicative and unnecessary permitting regulation” that has restricted government’s efforts to spray for mosquitoes.
But opponents say it would not give regulators more flexibility for spraying pesticides to kill mosquitoes, because vector control agencies already have the authority to do so in emergency situations. In the event of the spread of infectious disease, pesticide applicators do not need to apply for a permit.
“Rebranding legislation that removes important Clean Water Act protections for public health and water quality is not an appropriate avenue for addressing the serious threat to the Nation that the Zika virus poses,” said White House officials.
Think Progress reports that for several years now, lawmakers have tried to use pest management as an excuse to ease permit requirements for pesticide applicators. Prior to Zika, lawmakers capitalized on the perceived threat of the West Nile virus to try and ease pesticide regulations.
“When we were having West Nile, they called it a West Nile bill. Then, when we were having a bad fire season, they called it a Fire Suppression Act,” DeFazio said on the House floor.
More aerial spraying for mosquitoes could mean more autism
Regulators’ decision to permit more aerial spraying for mosquitoes could have dire consequences, as new research has linked the practice to an increase in autism.
Scientists said in April at the Pediatric Academic Societies that the effort to decrease birth-defects caused by mosquito-borne viruses may actually be causing more birth defects.
Researchers observed a 25 percent increase in autism and developmental disorders among children living in areas where aerial spraying for mosquitoes has been used since 2003, Natural News reported.