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Farmworker communities call on the State to Rewrite Regulation of Cancer-Causing Pesticide

by Californians for Pesticide Reform
One hundred farmworker community residents and their allies filled Cal EPA’s Byron Sher Auditorium, as well as participated through zoom, protesting the Department of Pesticide Regulation’s (DPR) proposed regulation for the cancer-causing pesticide 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D, brand name Telone). The Wednesday morning public hearing saw testimony from dozens of speakers asserting that their lives were “not worth 14 times less than other Californians.” The phrase was in reference to DPR’s choosing a 1,3-D regulatory target concentration 14 times higher than the “safe harbor level” established by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment last June.
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One hundred in-person and online protested the Department of Pesticide Regulation’s proposal that would allow for 14 times more 1,3-dichloropropene in the air than the official State safe harbor level

Sacramento. Approximately one hundred farmworker community residents and their allies filled Cal EPA’s Byron Sher Auditorium, as well as participated through zoom, protesting the Department of Pesticide Regulation’s (DPR) proposed regulation for the cancer-causing pesticide 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D, brand name Telone). The Wednesday morning public hearing saw testimony from dozens of speakers asserting that their lives were “not worth 14 times less than other Californians.” The phrase was in reference to DPR’s choosing a 1,3-D regulatory target concentration 14 times higher than the “safe harbor level” established by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment last June.

“While much of the world is banning 1,3-D, California is allowing for even more to be used, by eliminating the use caps,” said Yanely Martinez, Greenfield City Councilmember in Monterey County. “And now DPR has given us a number for how little they value farmworker communities: According to them, we’re worth 14 times less than other California residents, because that’s how much more cancer DPR is willing to allow by exposure to 1,3-D than our state toxicologists at OEHHA say is safe. This is a racist policy.”

1,3-D is a cancer-causing fumigant pesticide and Toxic Air Contaminant that is banned in 34 countries, but is the 3rd most used pesticide in California by pounds.

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazards Assessment (OEHHA) on June 21, 2022 issued a Prop 65 safe harbor level – the maximum exposure amount determined to keep risk below one extra cancer per 100,000 lives – for 1,3-D that converts to a daily air concentration of 0.04 parts per billion. The 1,3-D air concentration at the six active state pesticide air-monitors has exceeded OEHHA’s safe harbor level for cancer every year since testing started in 2012, averaging 2.5 to 29 times higher than the safe level.

Among the Department of Pesticide Regulation’s proposals heard at the January 18 hearing were the adoption of a cancer risk level that at 0.56 parts per billion is 14 times more lenient than the level recommended by OEHHA scientists, the elimination of limits on use (previously capped at 136,000 pounds per 6x6 mile “township”), and the assumption that new experimental emissions reduction measures, including increased soil water saturation and deeper injections, will be strictly followed and will greatly reduce air emissions.

The main concerns expressed by the majority of speakers from farmworker communities were that DPR must revise its plan to regulate 1,3-D to a) follow the state toxicologists’ (OEHHA’s) scientifically derived safe harbor level, b) reduce not eliminate the annual 1,3-D township cap allowances, and c) include and protect farmworkers who work in neighboring or nearby fumigated fields, as they were not addressed in DPR’s proposal.

“It is an outrageous environmental injustice for DPR to continue to allow farmworkers to work for full days, even multiple workdays, up to the very edge of the treated field in adjoining fields immediately after and even during the fumigation while occupied structures except for barns and other farm work structures are protected by setbacks of 100 to 500 feet. DPR’s pilot studies show that peak levels can be over 140 ppb next to fumigated fields,” said Anne Katten, Pesticide and Work Safety Project Director with California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.

At the end of the hearing, dozens marched out together, chanting “We're not worth fourteen times less; your Telone plan is a racist mess!” They gathered outdoors in the Cal EPA courtyard for several more minutes of protest chants.

After the outdoor rally, the protesters marched to the statue of UFW co-founder Cesar Chavez, across the street. UFW representative Olga Reyna recalled a speech Chavez gave after his 36-day fasting protest against pesticide harms in 1988: “Cesar said, ‘What is the worth of a man or a woman? What is the worth of a farm worker?’ Well, we are not worth 14 times less than other Californians, and we shouldn’t be treated like we are! Cesar also said, ‘In the old days, miners would carry birds with them to warn against poison gas. Hopefully, the birds would die before the miners. Farm workers are society’s canaries. Farm workers -- and their children -- demonstrate the effects of pesticide poisoning before anyone else.’ Well, DPR, we refuse to be your canaries!”

For a detailed Californians for Pesticide Reform report on 1,3-D and DPR’s proposed regulation, please visit: https://www.pesticidereform.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/13-D-Report-Jan_2023-FINAL.pdf.
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