FRESNO, Calif. — A coalition of nonprofit groups is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to write stronger regulations to protect children from exposure to farm chemicals sprayed near thousands of schools.
The petition was filed Wednesday by public interest law firms Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice. It requests that the agency set up no-spray buffer zones around schools, parks, hospitals and day-care centers for some of the most dangerous airborne pesticides.
No specific federal laws currently prohibit spraying near schools. An EPA spokeswoman said the agency would evaluate the new petition and take action to ensure public health was protected.
In California, state figures show there were 590 pesticide-related illnesses at schools from 1996 to 2005.
The Obama administration's economic stimulus program to find jobs for thousands of teenagers this summer couldn't overcome one of the bleakest job markets in more than 60 years that had desperate adults competing for the same work.
Almost one-quarter of the 279,169 youths in the $1.2 billion jobs program didn't get jobs, as more adults sought the same low-wage positions at hamburger stands and community pools, according to an Associated Press review of government data and reports from states.
Congressional auditors warned Wednesday that the government's plans to measure the success of the federal program are so haphazard that they "may reveal little about what the program achieved." The new report from the Government Accountability Office said many government officials, employers and participants believe the program was successful.
Vice President Joe Biden described the Workforce Investment Act summer program as a way to keep teens out of trouble and off the streets while reinvigorating the country's summer youth employment program, which had gone dormant for a decade. But the program didn't prevent youth unemployment rates from soaring to 18.5 percent in July, the highest rate measured among 16- to 24-year-olds in that month since 1948.
"The summer program was basically half-disaster," said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. "It was too little, too late and too poorly constructed to have any lasting effect on our youngest workers."