Senate Move Endangers Military Children

In an 84-14 vote last week, the United States Senate passed legislation (S. 4576) that would put children of military employees at an increased risk of asthma attacks, encephalitis and other serious illnesses associated with exposure to cockroaches, mosquitoes and other disease-carrying pests.

The legislation, an amendment to a Department of Defense spending bill, would prohibit the “use of funds for preventative application of pesticides in Department of Defense areas that may be used by children.”

David Sandretti, a spokesman for the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), claims that despite very rigorous testing by the Environmental Protection Agency, certain types of pesticides should not be used anywhere near children. Sandretti noted that the new law would permit the restricted pesticides to be applied only after a “severe infestation,” even if such a restriction would allow children to first be exposed to disease-carrying pests. The (unproven and hypothetical) risk of pesticide exposure is so great, he says, that it justifies putting children at immediate risk of exposure to harmful pests.

In a statement on the Senate floor, Boxer vowed to attach similar amendments to other spending bills in an effort to further restrict the use of EPA-approved pesticides. While the EPA-approved pesticides that Boxer seeks to restrict have a proven track record of being effective tools against dangerous insects and have never been shown to harm children in routine usage, her legislation sailed through the Senate.

Capitol Hill insiders speculate that Senators were afraid of voting against a bill that claimed to protect children’s health. How ironic, given the consequences.

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