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More Californians getting sick from pesticides, according to latest state report
by Californians for Pesticide Reform
Friday Jun 1st, 2018 12:56 PM
Agricultural cases up 50%; Monterey County third highest in California
May 31, 2018 - Illnesses caused by agricultural pesticide exposure in California rose by an astonishing 50% in a single year, according to new data just released by the Department of Pesticide Regulation. The number of agricultural cases categorized as "definite," "probable," and "possible" for pesticide-related illnesses and injuries increased from 265 in 2014 to 397 in 2015. Overall pesticide-related illnesses, including those stemming from non-agricultural exposure, were up 10% over the prior year. DPR’s latest Pesticide Illness Report documented 1,187 cases in 2015, a third of them agricultural. Drift was to blame for most of the agricultural incidents, including one in Kern County that sickened 82 workers.

Monterey County’s 89 agricultural pesticide illnesses and injuries were third most in the entire state only to Fresno County’s 102 and Kern County’s 98 cases. Monterey County saw a 370% increase in such pesticide illnesses above 2014.

Released with the report is information from each incident, including the pesticide, exposure type, medical description and narrative description among other data. For example, one “definite” incident resulting from drifting 1,3-dichloropropene and chloropicrin—both banned in the European Union yet two of the most used fumigant pesticides in Monterey County—is described as:

“A tractor driver began injecting a fumigant before the shanks were fully in the ground. A shoveler behind the tractor was splashed in face and liquid rolled from his forehead into his eyes. He declined to be taken for care but went to ED after work.”

The accompanying medical description reads:

“Coughing, and red, tearing, and irritated eyes. He rinsed his eyes copiously onsite and declined medical attentions multiple times. He went to ED after work when symptoms persisted. Medical report noted sclera is reddened.”

Especially alarming is the fact that statewide hundreds of people were harmed even when all current federal and state regulations were followed. The report lists 167 episodes involving 209 individuals that had health effects attributed to pesticide exposure despite apparent compliance with label instructions and regulations. 38 of these episodes involved agricultural pesticide use, an increase of 52% over 2014.

“This indicates that current pesticide regulations are not working to protect children and farmworkers from acute health harms. But it’s worse than what this report says, because what’s missing is the fact that long-term exposure to even tiny amounts of pesticides can create permanent health harms in our people, even before we are out of the womb,” said Charisse Yenko, a registered nurse in Salinas.

The year was more dangerous for two of the most vulnerable populations concerning pesticide exposure, as more farmworkers – 154 – were harmed by pesticide drift in 2015 than any year since 2004; while 97 children and staff at schools became ill from pesticide exposure, a nearly four-fold increase from 27 cases in 2014.

“These latest pesticide illness figures from the DPR tell us things are bad for workers and bad for kids. Obviously, the state and our county ag commissioners need to do more to protect us from pesticide harms in our everyday lives,” said Cesar Lara, Executive Director of the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council.

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. Safe Ag Safe Schools is the Monterey Bay area coalition in the CPR network with branches in Salinas, Watsonville, and Greenfield.
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