Corporations Expose Our Children to Dangerous Agricultural Pesticides
By Mercy Ritte, Kaliko Amona and Malia Chun
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Mar 04, 2015
A Mother’s Open Letter
We mothers have been testifying for over two years now about our concerns that pesticides are endangering our children at school and at home. We are both mothers whose families are the most at-risk from downwind pesticide drift from the large fields of companies like Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, BASF and Dupont-Pioneer, and mothers who stand in solidarity – because no one should send their children to school and wonder if they are exposed to pesticide drift. It might not be my child today, but it could be tomorrow.
To lawmakers who have blocked legislation such as HB1514 which would have created pesticide buffer zones and disclosure requirements for large users of “restricted use” pesticides (RUPs), our message is:
Please help us.
We are mothers who have given up time at work to write letters and testify in front of our lawmakers both at the county and at the state. We have testified about the bloody noses of our children, their headaches, asthma attacks and seizures.
Many of us flew to Honolulu last week to testify in support of HB1514, and we were not given even two minutes to be heard by Chair Tsuji of the House Agriculture Committee before he killed the bill by indefinitely “deferring” it.
We are mothers who have seen the report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Pesticide Exposure in Children” that reviewed 195 medical studies on children and pesticides and listed their concerns to be childhood cancers, neurobehavioral and cognitive deficits such as reduced IQ, attention disorders, and asthma.
We are mothers who have listened to industry representatives (and even our own Dept. of Agriculture) say over and over again that our concerns “are not based in science. Where are the facts to back up” that it is pesticides that are harming your children? We answer:
#1: By fighting against our right to know what is being sprayed, you are preventing us from gathering the very facts that could turn our “anecdotal” evidence into very real studies about the impacts of pesticides in our communities. How can we draw correlations between pesticide spray and possible effects on our children, when we don’t know what you are spraying and when? You don’t get to demand science and block science at the same time.
#2: Contrary to your empty claims, there is plenty of scientific basis for our concerns. The Hawai‘i Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Ryan Lee, the Director of the Neurodevelopmental Clinic at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Honolulu, and a long list of mental health professionals all submitted in-depth testimony in support of HB1514 citing numerous studies showing how children’s developing bodies are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of pesticides, and linking pesticide exposure to childhood illness and effects on brain development.
There are at least 25 schools in Hawai‘i located within one mile of large agricultural companies that spray RUPs.
We are mothers who are going to take the advice and recommendations from pediatricians and doctors
in support of buffer zones for our keiki and our kupuna, over the opinion from pesticide producers that their spraying is safe and that buffer zones are unnecessary.
We are mothers who support local farming and local food, and we know that most food farmers do not use large amounts of these RUPs. We know that buffer zones will not hurt our friends who farm and hunt and fish. We are asking for protections from some of the largest corporations in the world who are using our islands for their research operations.
We are mothers who are asking our lawmakers to please listen to us. Please proceed on the side of precaution for health and safety. Please allow bills like SB793 in the Senate to move forward, which would create pesticide buffer zones and disclosure requirements much like HB1514 would have.
Please help us protect our children.
Hoku Cabebe Malia Chun Chelsey Contrades
Lorilani Keohokalole Torio
Lorna Cummings Poe
Kaliko Amona Angelica Friedmann
Mitsuko Hayakawa Kealoha Kalama
Tara Jo Lindsey
Deb Mader Creagh Christy Mendoza Autumn Ness
From Hawai’i Island
Dana Melina Keawe
Jennifer Rose Mydock
Sally D. Ritterbush