States Call On Hud To Reduce Pesticides In Public Housing

NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL ELIOT SPITZER
CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL BILL LOCKYER
CONNECTICUT ATTORNEY GENERAL RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ILLINOIS ATTORNEY GENERAL LISA MADIGAN
MASSACHUSETTS ATTORNEY GENERAL TOM REILLY
MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL MIKE HATCH
MISSISSIPPI ATTORNEY GENERAL MIKE MOORE
NEW MEXICO ATTORNEY GENERAL PATRICIA A. MADRID
OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL W.A. DREW EDMONDSON
RHODE ISLAND ATTORNEY GENERAL PATRICK C. LYNCH
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS ATTORNEY GENERAL IVER A. STRIDIRON

 

Eleven attorneys general today petitioned the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to comply with federal law by improving its pest management in thousands of public housing developments across the nation.

In the petition, the attorneys general of New York, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and the U.S. Virgin Islands demonstrate that better pest prevention and the use of non-chemical controls and less harmful pesticides provide effective pest control while reducing the exposure of residents to toxic pesticides.

"Millions of people, including children, who live in public housing are exposed to chemical pesticides because a federal agency has chosen not to comply with the law," said New York Attorney General Spitzer. "Integrated Pest Management will lead to more effective pest control while decreasing residents' exposure to toxic pesticides. HUD should comply with this common sense policy quickly and effectively."

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act states: "Federal agencies shall use Integrated Pest Management techniques in carrying out pest management activities and shall promote Integrated Pest Management through procurement and regulatory policies and other activities." Despite this mandate, HUD currently does not require housing authorities to use Integrated Pest Management when dealing with pest control issues at HUD-funded developments.

The petition asks HUD to require housing authorities to use Integrated Pest Management, a proven method of pest control that eliminates pests while reducing the use of toxic pesticides. Integrated Pest Management employs a variety of pest control methods including regular inspections, preventative action - - installation of screens, repair of structural damage, and improved sanitation - - and the use of physical and mechanical controls. Chemical controls are used as a last resort and are chosen carefully to minimize toxicity and damage to people's health.

Nationwide, 1.3 million families live in HUD-funded developments managed by 3,300 public housing authorities. Housing authorities must comply with HUD regulations to be eligible for federal funding. HUD provides technical and professional assistance to housing authorities to help them comply with these regulations.

Children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticides because of their developing neuro-muscular systems. Because they spend significant time crawling and playing on the floor, children are more likely than adults to come into direct contact with pesticides. Exposure to pesticides in the womb and during the first years after birth is linked to increased risks of cancer and injury to developing brain and nervous systems.

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, President of the National Association of Attorneys General, said: "It is vital for the health and safety of millions of Americans that the federal government reduce its use of pesticides in public housing. The current practices needlessly expose residents to dangerous chemicals that can be particularly harmful to children and the elderly. Integrated Pest Management is a cheaper, safer and more effective method to improve the living conditions of families who reside in public housing."

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said: "This federal agency's failure to comply with the law defies common sense and good conscience. Pest control can be accomplished effectively and affordably through Integrated Pest Management. Pesticide-ridden areas threaten children, who are particularly vulnerable to brain and nervous system injury caused by overexposure to pesticides."

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said: "The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development needs to use more common sense and fewer toxic chemicals when it comes to keeping public housing free of pests. Protecting children's health must be a priority, not an afterthought, in HUD's approach to pest management. Integrated Pest Management will effectively control pests and protect public housing residents from harmful chemical exposure."

Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly said: "HUD officials should take the steps necessary to protect families and children living in public housing from dangerous pesticides - - it's a mater of common sense. The goal behind today's petition is to convince HUD to institute a more environmentally friendly and economically efficient pesticide control system to keep families safe from unwanted pests and toxic chemicals."

New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid said: "Pesticide use in public housing projects is not just a big city problem. We in New Mexico, and especially our children in public housing projects, can suffer harm from inappropriate pesticide use as well. Indeed, since the groundbreaking work on pesticides that Rachel Carson first championed more than 40 years ago, pesticide problems have justified national and international corrective actions. This filing with HUD by Attorneys General from all regions of our country demonstrates once again the serious attention we all need to pay to pesticide use."

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said: "This is an important public health issue. We are simply asking HUD to implement pest control techniques that reduce exposure to toxic chemicals. I trust HUD will consider our request and give this issue appropriate attention."

Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch said: "The federal law regulating pest management practices in public housing developments across the country is a good, strong and unambiguous law. It's disgraceful that HUD - for no apparent reason - has chosen not to follow the law, which exists to protect the health of millions of low-income American families. Noting that between 3,000 and 4,000 children live in public housing in Providence today, the government needs to do a better job protecting our kids from unnecessary exposure to chemicals known to be harmful to human health."

A coalition of environmental, housing, and public health organizations, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, today filed a similar petition calling on HUD to revise its regulations and require Integrated Pest Management practices at public housing developments.

"This is about environmental justice," said Adrianna Quintero, Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "HUD's refusal to comply with the law jeopardizes the health of some of the most vulnerable Americans. People who live in public housing share the same rights as everyone else not to be exposed to toxic chemicals."

This petition comes one year after the New York Attorney General's office surveyed the pest management policies and practices at housing authorities in Albany, Buffalo, New York City, Syracuse and Yonkers. The survey found that housing authorities relied almost entirely on chemical pesticides to treat pest problems. Since the report was released, these housing authorities have agreed to develop and implement Integrated Pest Management programs to effectively control pests while reducing the potential for toxic exposures of children and other residents.

The petition was prepared by Chief Scientist Michael Surgan and Assistant Attorney General Pedro Medina under the supervision of Bureau Chief Peter Lehner, of the New York State Attorney General's Office.

 

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