Advocates: New pesticide regulations are not enough PUBLIC SAFETY
Some have issue with part-time buffer
Although the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has adopted new rules to further protect young students from pesticide exposure, Angel Garcia, and other people, feel it is not enough.
“Much more is needed to ensure adequate protection for children’s health,” said Garcia, a Tulare County community organizer.
DPR’S new regulation, which was issued last week, prohibits pesticides from being applied by certain drift-prone methods within a quarter mile of schools and day cares on schools days. Garcia said even though the rule represents a significant step forward, he, as well as many other Tulare County residents, believe that the rule fails to address near-constant low-level daily exposures, which a host of recent studies have shown cause severe long-term health impacts, including autism, IQ loss and cancer.
Garcia said the new measure also doesn’t address the ongoing racial disparity in impact, with Latino schoolchildren in California nearly twice (91 percent) as likely to attend the most impacted schools as their white peers.
Lety Lopez of Tulare County Coalition Advocating for Pesticide Safety, said it is incredibly disappointing that the regulation does nothing to remedy the unfair pesticide burden on Latino children.
“All children deserve a healthy environment, regardless of race or place,” Lopez said.
As far as shielding those vulnerable to the effects of pesticide applications, Garcia said the new, part-time buffer won’t provide any protection for kids engaged in after-school and weekend activities and doesn’t account for the fact that many pesticides linger long after they are applied.
Garcia said a 2014 California Department of Public Health (DPH) report on pesticide use near schools noted that eight of the 10 hazardous pesticides most commonly used near schools persist in the air for days or even weeks.
“Pesticides don’t stop drifting after the kids board the busses home,” said Sal Cazarez, a high school teacher from Visalia. “A part-time buffer zone gives only partial protection.”
Garcia said although the parttime quarter mile buffer zone provided by the regulation is an improvement over the existing patchwork of county restrictions, community leaders and scientists point to recent incidents as evidence that a bigger buffer zone is needed.
“In May, dozens of workers in Kern County were affected by the brain-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos, which drifted more than half a mile from the application site,” Garcia said, adding that the incident in Kern reflects mounting scientific evidence regarding drift distance. “In one study by state and federal health departments, a onemile buffer would have prevented 85 percent of acute exposure illnesses, while only 24 percent of non-work drift illnesses occurred at distances of a quarter mile or less.”
Garcia noted that a UC Davis MIND Institute study documented significantly increased rates of autism in children of mothers who lived up to one mile from fields. He said the UC Berkeley CHAMACOS study of farmworker families in Salinas found contamination from the neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos in homes up to 1.8 miles from treated fields. He added that the California Childhood Leukemia Study reported elevated concentrations of several pesticides in the dust of homes up to three-fourths of a mile from treated fields.
In addition to needing a larger buffer zone, Garcia said he believes the chronic exposure of pesticide use is also being ignored.
“The regulation’s failure to address chronic impacts of repeated lowlevel pesticide exposure
was telegraphed at a March hearing convened by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee by senior DPR staffer Randy Segawa, who testified that the regulation is not designed to reduce exposure,” Garcia said, adding, “This came as shocking news to environmental health advocates who have long fought for a regulation that would do exactly that.”
Garcia said DPR’S air monitoring data for 2016 confirmed that pesticides are present in the air throughout California’s agricultural regions. Air samples collected at DPR’S monitoring station at Shafter High School in Kern County revealed levels of chlorpyrifos that were 18 times higher than the U.S. EPA’S level of concern for pregnant women.
He added that the carcinogenic fumigant Telone was also measured at concentrations above the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s recommended level
for lifetime cancer risk (0.10 parts per billion) at the state’s three school air monitoring sites at Shafter High (Kern), Rio Mesa High (Ventura), and Ohlone Elementary (Northern Monterey County) over the last five years.
“We know repeated exposures to even small amounts of pesticides contribute to significant and permanent health problems, including cancer, neurological disease, respiratory impacts, and birth defects,” said Nayamin Martinez, executive director of the Central Coast Environmental Justice Network. “How can DPR ignore these chronic effects of pesticide exposure on school kids?”
Garcia said when the regulation was first announced last fall in draft form, it included a requirement that growers give schools 48-hour notice of any pesticide use planned within a quarter mile. However, under intense pressure from
lobbyists from the agriculture and pesticide industries, Garcia said this requirement was axed from the final draft, leaving only the requirement to provide general notice to schools of any pesticides that may be used in the coming year.
“For too long, information that residents need to protect themselves and their families has been all but impossible to obtain,” Garcia said. “For community members, notification is an integral component that cannot be left out of the regulation.”
Margaret Reeves, PH.D., senior scientist with Pesticide Action Network, said policymakers need to provide support and training for farmers to transition to safer farming methods that don’t harm kids.
“We urge state officials, particularly DPR, the Department of Food and Agriculture and the Governor to make the necessary investments in the future of California agriculture,” Reeves said.
In this 2001 file photo, a crop dusting plane from Blair Air Service dusts cotton crops in Lemoore.