FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- 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.

Copyright 2009 The AP.

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