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Related Categories: California | Santa Cruz Indymedia | Environment & Forest Defense | Health, Housing & Public Services | Labor & Workers
Pesticide Use Near Record High in California, Monterey Numbers Concerning
by Californians for Pesticide Reform
Wednesday Apr 25th, 2018 3:36 PM
Use of cancer-causing fumigant pesticide on the rise for Monterey strawberries
Salinas, CA, April 25, 2018 - Agricultural pesticide use in California remains at a near-record high, according to data quietly released this week by the state agency responsible for tracking pesticide use. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s (DPR) latest numbers paint a grim picture of the state’s continued reliance on vast quantities of agricultural pesticides - 209 million pounds in 2016. That’s the third highest since reporting began in 1990. The greatest burden continues to be borne by the San Joaquin Valley and Central Coast. In Monterey County, use of the drift-prone carcinogenic fumigant chloropicrin – the vast majority used on strawberries - rose above two million pounds, a 14% increase over the prior year.

“Numbers like these are nothing to brag about. I’m not surprised DPR is keeping quiet and has decided to skip their usual press release,” said Cesar Lara, Executive Director of the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council.

The increase in use of chloropicrin, a Word War I-era poison gas and carcinogen that causes severe lung damage, is especially troubling to public health advocates in the Monterey Bay. “It’s disheartening that Central Coast strawberries and the workers that grow them continue to be exposed to ever greater quantities of cancer-causing chemicals,” said Lucia Calderon, organizer with the Monterey Bay area-based coalition Safe Ag Safe Schools.

Among the top five most heavily used pesticides in 2016 were DowDuPont’s hazardous, drift-prone fumigant 1,3-dichloropropene (Telone) and Monsanto’s blockbuster herbicide glyphosate (Roundup), both carcinogens. Telone was found in the air at levels so hazardous it was banned outright in California in 1990. It was brought back in 1995 in a backroom deal between the manufacturer and DPR, the regulator, in which DowDuPont was allowed to create special rules for its reintroduction and was handed the authority to track its use. Last year, despite pressure to further restrict this widely used hazardous chemical, DPR actually increased allowed usage by 50%.

“We are saddened but not surprised that Telone use continues unabated in California, given DPR’s unconscionable abdication of their regulatory authority to DowDuPont. There can be no clearer example of putting the fox in charge of the henhouse,” said Sarah Aird, co-director of the statewide coalition Californians for Pesticide Reform.

One encouraging piece of news was reduced usage of the brain-harming organophosphate pesticide chlorpyrifos, which dipped just under a million pounds for the first time. Last year, a proposed nationwide ban of chlorpyrifos was reversed at the last minute by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, leaving California to take action to protect workers and residents from a chemical known to cause irreversible brain damage, even in tiny amounts. The overall downward trend in usage, from as much as 2.7 million pounds per year, comes as DPR considers banning the chemical in California.

The alarming numbers in the 2016 data have many worried about the continued risk to the health and potential of children living and attending school near pesticide use in California’s agricultural regions. A 2014 report by the California Department of Public Health (DPH) documented extensive use of hazardous pesticides within a quarter mile of public schools, with Latino children almost twice as likely as their white peers to attend one of the most impacted schools.

In response to that report’s disturbing findings, DPR enacted a new rule earlier this year restricting the most drift-prone application methods within a quarter mile of schools and daycares from 6am to 6pm on weekdays. The regulation also requires growers to provide an annual list of the pesticides they intend to use within one quarter mile of schools to school and daycare administrators as well as to County Agricultural Commissioners, who are responsible for carrying out local pesticide enforcement under DPR oversight. Despite community calls for this information to be made public, DPR has refused to do so.

“I fail to understand why DPR would keep this critical information from the public,” said Francisco Rodriguez, president of the Pájaro Valley Federation of Teachers. “When we see how much hazardous pesticide use continues in the Monterey Bay area and throughout California’s agricultural regions, the danger is evident, especially to the health of young children.”



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The Safe Ag Safe Schools coalition is a coalition of 50-plus organizations and individuals working together to reduce pesticide exposure threats to the Monterey Bay region’s residents. SASS is focused on increasing grassroots pressure on government decision makers to phase out hazardous drift-prone pesticides over the long term, and taking action to reduce hazardous pesticide use near schools and residential communities in the shorter term.

Californians for Pesticide Reform is a diverse, statewide coalition of over 190 member groups working to strengthen pesticide policies in California to protect public health and the environment. Member groups include public and children's health advocates, clean air and water groups, health practitioners, environmental justice groups, labor, education, farmers and sustainable agriculture advocates from across the state.