Endocrine-disrupting pesticides: groups sue EPA over decades of inaction

A group of US-based non-profit advocacy organizations (Plaintiffs Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Pesticide Action Network North America, Rural Coalition, Center for Environmental Health, Organización en California de Líderes Campesinas, and Center for Food Safety-CFS) has sued the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for decades of inaction in testing and regulating pesticides with endocrine-disrupting qualities.  

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, asserts that EPA was required to develop an endocrine disruptor screening program (EDSP) under the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 and to have that implemented by 1999. According to the prosecutors, in more than two decades, EPA has tested fewer than 50 of more than 1 315 registered pesticides for endocrine-disruption effects and completed only 34 of those tests. The lawsuit said “EPA has yet to implement the EDSP it created and further, has failed to even initiate endocrine testing for approximately 96% of registered pesticides.”  

With the lawsuit, the groups have asked the court to implement the actions required by the 1996 law "as soon as reasonably practicable."  

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may mimic or interfere with the body's hormones, even at low exposure levels. These substances include many pesticides, exposures to which have been linked to a variety of health issues (infertility, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and cancers, to name a few).    

Although an EDSP was created by EPA in 1998, the agency was sued by the Natural Resources Defense Council in 1999 after failing to implement the program within the deadline. The lawsuit ended in a settlement in 2001 when EPA agreed to prioritize chemicals for screening “based on both effect and exposure data.” "EPA committed to publishing a list of initial chemicals to evaluate by 2002," the lawsuit said. "Instead, EPA released a draft list of chemicals for evaluation in 2007 and a final list of 67 chemicals in 2009, seven years after their original promise."  

"At the same time as EPA only managed to complete […] testing for 52 pesticides, EPA completed registration for 425 new pesticides without consideration of their potential endocrine effects," the lawsuit said, "flouting the whole point of Congress's FQPA mandates -- bringing the total number of registered pesticides from 890 in 1990 to 1 315 in 2020."  

EPA Office of the Inspector General found, in both 2011 and 2021, that the agency had failed to make any progress on implementing an endocrine disruptor screen program (the EDSP).

The groups allege EPA's lack of testing of many pesticides already has caused health issues for farmworkers and others.