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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | Central Valley | Santa Cruz Indymedia | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections | Health, Housing, and Public Services
Santa Cruz County has second most agricultural pesticide illnesses in the state
Department of Pesticide Regulation report shows Santa Cruz County ranked #2 for agricultural pesticide-related illnesses in 2014
Watsonville, CA – The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) released a report last week detailing the 2014 results of their Pesticide Illness Surveillance Program. The report, documenting all reported pesticide-related illnesses from all California counties, shows 17.2% of agricultural pesticide-related illnesses occurred in Santa Cruz County, making it the county with the second-most agricultural pesticide illnesses in the state. Of the 53 counties with documented pesticide-related illnesses in 2014, Santa Cruz County accounted for over 1 in every 6 cases of poisonings from agricultural pesticides.
In Santa Cruz County, DPR investigated a total of 67 agricultural-related pesticide poisonings, a starkly high number compared to other agricultural counties. Their report also notes the type of exposure associated with each investigated illness, with drift accounting for 85% of all pesticide-related illnesses in Santa Cruz County.
“It is concerning to us that a relatively small county has such a large proportion of illnesses related to agricultural pesticides,” says Lucia Calderon, organizer of the coalition Safe Ag Safe Schools. “Especially in a place where treated fields are so close to schools and neighborhoods, it is crucial that the DPR takes action to truly reduce the incidence of pesticide drift and subsequent poisonings.”
DPR recently proposed policy that would enact part-time, ¼-mile buffer zones around schools and licensed child care facilities for the most drift-prone application methods, including fumigations. But a 2011 report by state and federal health departments of California and other states titled “Acute Pesticide Illness Associated with Off-Target Pesticide Drift from Agricultural Applications: 11 States, 1998- 2006” found that 82% of the fumigant-related cases, for which distance data were available, occurred more than ¼-mile away from the application site.
“A ¼-mile is not enough to protect from pesticide drift and illness. To protect public health and make sure agricultural pesticide illness is truly reduced, Santa Cruz County and the entire state need full-time, full-mile buffer zones around schools,” says Calderon.
Safe Ag Safe Schools is a coalition of 50-plus organizations and individuals working together to reduce pesticide exposure threats to the Monterey Bay region’s residents.
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SUMMARY OF RESULTS FROM THE CALIFORNIA PESTICIDE ILLNESS SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM
- 2014 -
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Case Summary - Pesticide Handler Exposure
In Monterey County, a worker became ill when he mixed, loaded and applied chlorpyrifos to a vineyard. The mixture was applied using a ground boom-sprayer being towed by an enclosed cab tractor. Near the end of his shift, he started to feel dizzy, lightheaded, nauseous and developed diarrhea. He noticed that he was able to smell the pesticide through his respirator. The worker continued to mix and load another batch of chlorpyrifos before telling a co-worker he was feeling ill. When he notified his supervisor of his symptoms, he was taken to the emergency room and was put on medical leave for 3 days.
Though the employer provided a half-face respirator, they did not provide specific instructions on cartridge replacement frequency. Employees were told to replace the disposable cartridge periodically (around 40 hours) of use or as soon as pesticide can be smelled through the respirator. The worker stated he had not replaced the respiratory cartridge for eight days. He was also not wearing the label required chemical-resistant apron when mixing chlorpyrifos. Employer records showed the worker handled cholinesterase-inhibiting pesticides for 5 days in a 30-day period and he was not required to be monitored under the Medical Supervision Program.
The employer was cited for not properly training employees on respirator cartridge replacement. Since this incident, the employer has reevaluated their written respiratory protection program to include procedures on routinely replacing respirator cartridges. Employees are now trained to replace cartridges at the end of each workday when handling pesticides that require the use of a respirator.
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Case Summaries – Field Worker Drift Exposures
In Santa Cruz County, a crew inside and around berry hoop houses was drifted on by a helicopter application of a fungicide and insecticide to a nearby celery field. Forty of the 67 crew members reported symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headache, burning eyes and throat, blurry vision, shortness of breath, upset stomach, rash, dry mouth, and mouth or lip numbness. Five workers were evaluated by the paramedics on site, while 4 were taken for medical attention. None of the workers were hospitalized.
Twenty five workers did not have symptoms, and two were not interviewed. Of those without symptoms, 14 reported an odor described as “sulfur,” “stove cleaner,” “house cleaner,” “dead fish,” “bleach,” “poison,” “bad,” and “slight.”
The helicopter was making turns over the hoop houses, and flying low generating gusts which caused dust to enter the hoop houses and shook the plastic covering. Some workers noted a yellow, red or orange dust being applied.
CAC staff collected swab and foliage samples from the celery field to the hoop houses. Results from the samples followed the drift pattern from the application site to the harvest site, and confirmed the presence of copper, the fungicide’s active ingredient.
Although the pilot visually checked the area and could see about 10 feet into the hoop houses and his coworker drove by the berry field 30 minutes to an hour before flight to check for presence of field workers, he did not have his employees check to see exactly where the field workers were before he continued and finished the application. The pilot-owner was found not to have exercised the necessary precautions to determine the probability of harm to the field workers (CCR § 6600 and 6614, FAC § 12972 and 12973).
Shortly after the completion of the investigation, the pilot-owner was involved in an unrelated plane accident. He passed away from injuries resulting from the crash before a Notice of Proposed Action could be served, and the agricultural pest control business is no longer in operation.
Of the 53 counties with documented pesticide-related illnesses in 2014, Tulare County accounted for over 1 in every 5 (greater than 20%) cases of poisonings from agricultural pesticides.
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This report provides a summary of illnesses identified in 2014 by the Pesticide Illness Surveillance Program (PISP) of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR). DPR identified 1,685 cases potentially involving health effects from pesticide exposure. DPR epidemiologists determined that 1,073 (64%) of the 1,685 identified cases were at least possibly associated with pesticide exposure, a 5% decrease from the 1,128 associated cases in 2013. Evidence indicated that pesticide exposure did not cause or contribute to ill health in 330 (19%) of the 1,685 cases evaluated. Insufficient information prevented evaluation of 282 (17%) cases.
Despite a decrease in the number of associated cases in 2014, the number of associated episodes, defined as an event in which a single source possibly, probably, or definitely exposed one or more people (cases) to pesticides, increased 14%, from 733 in 2013 to 835 in 2014.
PISP identified 265 (25%) of the 1,073 cases as associated with agricultural use of pesticides. This reflects a 39% decrease from the previous year in which there were 435 cases in 2013. There were 798 (74%) cases associated with non-agricultural pesticide use, an increase of 16% from 2013 (685). Ten of the 1,073 pesticide-associated cases could not be characterized as agricultural or non-agricultural due to insufficient information.
In 2014, 268 (34%) of the 798 cases associated with non-agricultural use of pesticides were occupational, defined as those that occurred while the affected people were at work. Of the 268 associated occupational, non-agricultural use cases, 203 (76%) involved antimicrobial products.
Children (less than 18 years old) account for 146 (18%) of the 798 non-agricultural cases, and 6 (2%) of the 265 agricultural pesticide related cases. None of the 152 cases involved children exposed to pesticides while at school.
PISP data reflects that 148 agricultural field workers were injured by pesticide exposure in 25 separate episodes in 2014. The largest number of field workers injured in a single episode was 40. In 2013, the largest number of field workers injured in a single episode was 48. The total number of field worker episodes decreased by 29% from 35 episodes in 2013.
Correction: Drift accounts for 80% of all pesticide-related illnesses in Santa Cruz County.
66 = cases of exposure from drift
83 = total cases
66 / 83 = 79.5%
The original post says:
"Their report also notes the type of exposure associated with each investigated illness, with drift accounting for 85% of all pesticide-related illnesses in Santa Cruz County."
[ Photo: Another awesome CAPS meeting, we're declaring #DPRraisethebar ]
Formerly known as El Quinto Sol de America's Healthy Kids Zone program, Coalition Advocating for Pesticide Safety-Tulare County is a coalition of non-profits, community advocates, community leaders and residents who are demanding more for the people of the San Joaquin Valley and for California. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation has proposed a quarter mile buffer zone from schools, daycares and labor camps against the application of the most restricted pesticides, but this is not enough. We are advocating for a one mile buffer zone. Pesticides have been linked to respiratory illness, cancers, and cognitive and behavioral developmental disorders. The DPR is not considering the long term effects of pesticides on residents of California. DPR, raise the bar.