Decades Long Legal Battle Ends with EPA Settlement
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to acknowledge there was discrimination against California Latino students when it exposed them to pesticides signaled the end of more than ten years of court battle.
Erik Nicholson, United Farm Workers union vice president, in an interview, said, “That 12 years of litigation have passed to get to this conclusion shows that the government’s environmental agencies don’t care about the health of students in rural schools because they’re Latinos and because they’re poor.”
According to the EPA, the decision came as a result of a legal complaint filed in 1999 by a number of organizations against the California Department of Pesticide Regulation or CDPR.
The basis of the complaint was the agreement between the CDPR and EPA about increasing the program to measure the concentrations of pesticides in the air in various rural areas where schools are situated.
The resolution makes it effective the EPA regulation related to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which specifically bars acts of discrimination by institutions utilizing federal funds.
Nicholson also said, “All this time the children who have studied in rural schools have been absorbing those poisons, of which methyl bromide was already discontinued, and now another worse one is used which is methyl iodide (and which) we also want them to stop using.”
He added, “This is occurring due to the arrogance of the agricultural industry which doesn’t care about the wellbeing of the workers and their families and doesn’t care that people keep dying due to lack of shade and lack of water in the camps during the summer.”
It was found by the EPA that methyl bromide was utilized between 1995 and 2001 in rural areas where schools with a high percentage of Hispanic students are located.