May 24, 2016

Rep. Grace Napolitano's statement on H.R. 876, the Zika Vector Control Act

Statement of
The Honorable Grace F. Napolitano, Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment
On H.R. 897, the Zika Vector Control Act
May 24, 2016


Mr. Speaker, I rise, again, in strong opposition to H.R. 897. 

To be clear, H.R. 897 was not created to respond to the Zika.

Up until two weeks ago, this so-called “Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act,” was drafted to relax our laws protecting public health to reduce the paperwork burdens on commercial pesticide spraying operations.

This will be the fourth time in three years that I will vote against this legislation. 

To be clear, a great number of water bodies in the United States are ALREADY impaired or threatened by pesticides. Yet, for some reason, our Republican majority wants it to be easier for companies to add more of these pesticides to our waters – yet not report these additions nor monitor for any serious and immediate health impacts that may result.

I am very concerned about the effect these pesticides on the health of our rivers, on our streams, and especially the drinking water supplies of all our citizens.

Last week, the Majority argued that even though this bill would exempt pesticide applications from the Clean Water Act, public health would not be impacted because FIFRA’s labeling requirements would remain in place.

However, FIFRA-labeling does not address the volumes of pesticides being directly or indirectly applied to our rivers, lakes, and streams on an annual basis.  

In many cases, we simply do not know the quantities and locations pesticides being added to our waters, because this data is not tracked by Federal and State regulators.

And if we don’t know what is being added to our waters, we cannot accurately be looking for potential human health or environmental impacts of these pesticides. 

In fact, the only way we often learn of a problem is in examples like the gentleman from Oregon cited on the floor – massive fish kills or other environmental catastrophes.

It is reckless to rely on a system of catastrophes or massive die-offs to identify where problems may be lurking.

Proponents of this legislation also argue that this legislation would protect the health of pregnant women and their children.

However, this legislation does nothing demonstrable to prevent the spread of Zika in the United States. What I fear, however, is that this legislation will relax standards for pesticide application to the point where even more water bodies become impaired or threatened by pesticides.

Mr. Speaker, we know of significant health risks associated with exposing pregnant women and young children to pesticides.

Let me name a few:

  • Birth defects;
  • Neurodevelopmental delays and cognitive impairments;
  • Childhood brain cancers;
  • Autism spectrum disorders;
  • AD/HD;
  • Endocrine disruption.

To be clear, the bill under consideration today will make it easier to contaminate our drinking water supplies with pesticides known or suspected to pose these health risks.

The majority will say that FIFRA ensures these chemicals are safe; what the majority cannot say, definitely, however, is that continued exposure to these chemicals, over-and-over, in the same watershed, is also safe.  Peer reviewed science suggests there are impacts, and that evidence should be enough for us to be cautious.

If my choice is cautious use of a pesticide to protect public health and elimination of a paperwork requirement – I believe protection of public health is more important.

Further, according to the Washington Post, of the 544 reported cases of Zika in the United States, nearly all of them involve people who contracted the disease when they traveled to countries where the disease was prevalent.

While a handful of the 544 cases of Zika may have involved the sexual transmission of the virus, no one has acquired the disease from mosquitos in this country. Let me repeat that – no one in this country has acquired the Zika virus from a mosquito in this country.

We cannot, and should not, eliminate the role of the Clean Water Act in the regulation of pesticides.  Over the past 5 years, this regulatory process has been reasonable, has been workable to pest operators and agricultural interests alike, and needs to be retained.

Mr. Speaker, I oppose this bill, I urge my colleagues on both sides to vote “no,” and reserve the balance of my time.