Central Valley residents urge state officials to protect schoolkids from hazardous pesticides
Hundreds of organizations and nearly 12,000 individual Californians demand comprehensive full-time protections for children from harmful airborne pesticides commonly used near schools
SACRAMENTO— Today residents from several San Joaquin Valley communities will deliver nearly 12,000 petition signatures to Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) staff calling for comprehensive and consistent protections at school sites. They urge the state to support farmers to transition away from using health-harming pesticides while ensuring a prosperous and thriving farming economy across the state.
More than two years after state officials documented hazardous pesticide use in close proximity to California schools, the DPR is closing the comment period on its proposed new rules this Friday (December 9). While the pesticide industry is pushing back on the current proposal, residents of agricultural communities up and down the state say new rules need to be even stronger.
“California schoolchildren deserve protections from volatile and hazardous pesticides. The new rules need to go further to address the issues of injustice, providing one-mile, no-spray buffer zones around the clock,” said Angel Garcia, a community organizer with El Quinto Sol de America and Tulare County Coalition Advocating for Pesticide Safety. Garcia delivered the petitions with several community members from Fresno and Tulare Counties, many with family members who attend school directly next to citrus groves where neurotoxic pesticides are applied.
Hundreds of concerned citizens across the state attended public hearings on the proposed rules in recent weeks, with many sharing personal stories about the harmful impacts of airborne pesticides on children in their lives. Even low-level exposure to agricultural pesticides can lead to significant childhood health harms, including developmental, neurological and reproductive harms, as well as asthma, autism and cancer.
“The currently proposed protections fall short, leaving kids routinely exposed to neurotoxic and cancer-causing pesticides that persist in the air for days at a time. In addition to the much needed rules, policymakers should invest in kid-friendly farming, providing support to keep farms prosperous and communities healthy,” said Paul Towers, organizing director and policy advocate with Pesticide Action Network (PAN), who will participate in the delivery.
DPR’s rules, as drafted, would establish a first-ever statewide buffer zone around public schools and daycare centers in California. The regulations would prohibit any applications by aircraft, air-blast or fumigation on fields within a quarter mile of schools. But the restriction would only apply between the hours of 6am and 6pm, Monday through Friday, despite clear evidence that many of the most hazardous pesticides linger in the air for hours or even days.
“The overuse of toxic pesticides needs to stop, and implementing strong regulations to protect the health of our children and our communities is critical. No one deserves to suffer from a system that is polluting our air, water and food supply — least of all a child,” said Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director for Center for Food Safety.
The issue of pesticide use near schools has also continued to raise concerns over environmental injustice. According to a 2014 California Department of Public Health report, Latino schoolchildren are nearly twice as likely as their white counterparts to attend schools in areas contaminated by the heaviest and most hazardous pesticide use.
"Farmworker families, including their children, are on the frontlines of pesticide exposure," said Erik Nicholson, vice-president of the United Farm Workers (UFW). "Schools should be safe havens, ensuring that farmworker children are protected from cancer-causing and neurotoxic pesticides still widely used in farm fields next door."
State legislators, including Senators Hannah-Beth Jackson and Bill Monning, Assemblymembers Mark Stone, Rob Bonta and Kevin McCarty have also voiced their support for stronger protections. Additionally, more than 100 organizations submitted letters calling for comprehensive and consistent rules, including teachers unions, health professional associations and farmers. And nearly 12,000 individual petitions were collected by Center for Food Safety, Earthjustice, PAN and UFW.
The delivery will take place today at 1:30pm outside the California Environmental Protection Agency building (1001 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95812).