Category Archives: sustainable agriculture

CITIZEN RESEARCHER

Is Your Child Being Exposed to Dangerous Pesticides?

img_6703

U.S. EPA Chief Pruitt just gave the okay to Chlorpyrifos, a brain harming pesticide the agency knows to be extremely dangerous to children. Want to know what else is your child is being exposed to? HERE’S HOW TO Become a CITIZEN RESEARCHER.

“Kids today are sicker than they were a generation ago, and a growing body of scientific evidence points to pesticides as a reason why. From childhood cancers to learning disabilities and asthma, a wide range of childhood diseases and disorders are on the rise.”
A Generation in Jeopardy,
How pesticides are undermining our children’s health & intelligence[1]

What’s the Problem?

I’ve been a teacher in agricultural communities in Central California for over twenty-five years. I’ve seen first-hand the abnormally high incidence of child cancers, and the rising rate of autism spectrum disorders, learning disabilities, respiratory and autoimmune diseases.

In October, 2015, two schools in the Pajaro Valley School District were exposed to pesticide drift when a pesticide application was made to strawberry fields during school hours. In an exchange between the teachers and the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner, we learned that the carcinogens telone (1,3-dichloropropene) and chloropicrin – both banned in the European Union – were applied within one mile of the school while classes were in session.

Teachers, staff and children experienced watering eyes, wheezing and difficulty breathing, dizziness, blurred vision, headache, and nausea. According to the Cornell University Cooperative Extension Management Pesticide Education Program[2], the symptoms that teachers and students experienced the day of the pesticide application are typical signs of poisoning by organophosphate pesticides – a class of poisons commonly used near the school. Nevertheless, the agricultural commissioner’s response to community concern was that, “the applications were made consistent with pertinent laws, regulations and permit conditions.”

When we ask school, corporate, and government officials to tell us what dangers our children are being exposed to through the food they eat and the schools they attend, the answer is usually, “Everything is perfectly safe. Don’t worry about a thing. There is no problem here, whatsoever.” But what if your instincts tell you everything is not “perfectly safe”?

How can you find out for yourself what’s really going on? In California, you have the legal right to access pesticide use records.

After the exposure at the two schools in my district last Fall, I contacted the county Agricultural Commissioner’s Office and requested pesticide use reports.

Citizens at pesticide hearingWhat I Found Out

In addition to the two carcinogens that the Agricultural Commissioner admitted were used next to the schools, I found that many other EPA Category 1 restricted use acutely toxic pesticides are being regularly applied in close proximity to both schools. Following are some of the worst of those toxins:

Santa Cruz County Pesticide Use Permits 2016

Pesticide

Use

Toxicity

alumminum phosphide: gophers (may also kill hawks and other birds) EPA Acute Toxicity Class I Restricted Use Chemical; heart, lungs, central nervous system; gastrointestinal tract; liver; kidneys[3]
cabaryl (“Sevin”)

       (Bayer)

a wide-spectrum carbamate insecticide (highly toxic to honeybees, crustaceans, fish, aquatic insects) carcinogen; affects nervous and respiratory systems; reduces sex hormones; reproductive toxin; affects the lungs, kidneys and liver; behavioral and neurological damage; mutagen; suspected a viral enhancer; immune suppressant; has been detected in muddy banks and groundwater
 

chloropicrin (“tear gas”)

 

a highly toxic and reactive soil fumigant (gas) with a tendency to drift far from intended target Class 1 Acute Toxicity; carcinogen; suspected reproductive & developmental toxin; inflames airways and respiratory system
 

chlorpyrifos (“Lorsban” “Dursban”)

 

 

  (Dow Chemical)

 

In June 2000 EPA and Dow AgroSciences agreed to stop sale of many uses of chlorpyrifos due to its health risk. March 2017 US EPA Chief Pruitt gave ok for resumption of widespread agricultural use

 

 

acutely toxic to bees, birds, mammals, aquatic life

 

“A 1996 study of children exposed to chlorpyrifos in utero found that extensive and unusual patterns of birth defects, including brain, nervous system, eyes, ears, palate, teeth, heart, feet, nipples, and genitalia.” [4]

 

may affect the central nervous system, the cardiovascular system, and respiratory system; skin and eye irritant. Symptoms of exposure can include numbness, tingling sensation, incoordination, dizziness, vomiting, sweating, nausea, stomach cramps, headache, vision disturbances, muscle twitching, drowsiness, anxiety, slurred speech, depression, confusion. Has been linked to Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).

 

glyphosate (“Roundup”)

   (Monsanto)

 

MIT researchers released a study in Winter, 2014 linking use of glyphosate with rising rate of autism

 

 

methomyl

 

(You do the research.)
 

methyl bromide
http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/extoxnet/haloxyfop-methylparathion/methyl-bromide-ext.html   [5]

 

banned by the Montreal Protocal on Ozone Depleting Substances and scheduled for phase-out by the year 2000 but still widely used on strawberries; a Class 1 Ozone depleting chemical; significant greenhouse gas

 

prone to drift; a gas fumigant against insects, termites, rodents, weeds, nematodes, and soil-borne diseases; used to fumigate agricultural commodities, grain elevators, mills, ships, clothes, furniture and greenhouses

 

toxic to aquatic organisms

Restricted Use Pesticide (RUP) because of its high acute toxicity to applicators. Readily absorbed through the lungs. Effects range from skin and eye irritation to death.   Cumulative poison. Symptoms may include headache, dizziness, nausea, chest and abdominal pain, and a dry throat, slurred speech, blurred vision, temporary blindness, mental confusion, and sweating, lung swelling; irritates eyes and skin; rashes, itching and blisters; congestion; hemorrhaging of the brain, heart, and spleen; severe kidney damage; and numbness; fluid accumulation in the lungs, paralysis, and kidney, liver, and nervous system damage; vision and hearing disturbances, depression, confusion, hallucinations, euphoria, personality changes, and irritability. Depression of the central nervous system. Can affect muscle control and behavior. Other targets of the fumigant are the heart, nasal cavities, adrenal gland, and the testis. Evidence indicates that methyl bromide is a mutagen & carcinogen.
 

oxydemetonmethyl

 

(see what you can find)
 

paraquat
(agent of chemical warfare)

 

(Google it – be sure you fact check.)
 

pyrethrins

 

toxic to bees (You can research more.)
 

telone (1,3-dichloropropene)

 

carcinogen

Many of these pesticides were developed for chemical warfare. Why are we waging chemical warfare on our school children?

Exposing a child or pregnant mother to just one of these poisons is unconscionable. What about serving up a multi-poison potion for our children to breathe while they are trying to get an education? Methyl Bromide, Chloropicrin, and Telone are well-known by the agricultural industry to be synergistic when used together to kill soil-borne organisms, which is why they are usually combined to fumigate the strawberry fields. Wouldn’t exposure to the combined chemicals also magnify toxicity to humans? “No problem. Don’t worry. Everything is perfectly safe.” Really?

A new report released by researchers at UCLA, “Exposure and Interaction: Potential Health Impacts of Using Multiple Pesticides,”[6] documents the synergistic effects of pesticides used in combination. Current pesticide assessment and regulation has not addressed the potential synergistic risk of multiple pesticide exposure even though “the California Environmental Quality Act (1970) mandates that Department of Pesticide Regulation identify and evaluate significant cumulative impacts of the use of a pesticide.”[7] The long-overdue UCLA case study focuses on the toxicological responses to mixtures of three chemicals commonly used in our area: Telone (1,3-dichloropropene), chloropicrin, and metam sodium. The rigourous scientific study finds “greater than additive enhancement” of cancer risk and neurological damage and recommends further study and enactment of regulation based on new information about the impacts of multiple chemical exposures.

We have been told for decades by regulatory agencies that there is not sufficient data to support the assertion that pesticides cause significant harm to people and environment. Yet a large body of peer-reviewed studies going back to Rachel Carson’s work would argue otherwise. Will this newly-published UCLA research be glossed over and forgotten by our regulatory agencies as many other studies have been? Perhaps. It’s up to us.

Citizens for Pesticide ReformIt’s Up To Us

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation is currently drafting long-delayed new policy regarding pesticide applications near schools. The DPR will most likely ignore the new UCLA research findings . . . unless they hear from us. Ultimately, most of us would like to see a complete transition to socially just, environmentally sustainable organic and agro-ecological practices. But for now, we are asking for increased buffer zones around schools, drift monitoring, and notification prior to pesticide applications.

We need more Citizen Researchers to find out what’s really happening near our schools, behind the smoke screen that “everything is perfectly safe.” And we need to get involved in shaping new policies – “pertinent laws, regulations and permit conditions” – that reflect current scientific research and findings about pesticide exposure and other forms of chemical trespass.

Do you want to know the truth about chemical exposure in your community? Become a Citizen Researcher, share your discoveries and demand that public policy reflects current scientific findings. We have a right to know, and to raise our children in healthy communities.

Footnotes

[1] Schafer K, Marquez E, et al. 2013. A Generation in Jeopardy: How Pesticides are Undermining our Children’s Health & Intelligence. Pesticide Action Network North America. http://scruzclimact.pbworks.com/

 

[2] http://psep.cce.cornell.edu/Tutorials/core-tutorial/module09/index.aspx

 

[3] http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/extoxnet/24d-captan/aluminum-phosphide-ext.html
[4]https://www.beyondpesticides.org/assets/media/documents/pesticides/factsheets/Chlorpyrifos.pdf

 

[5] http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/extoxnet/haloxyfop-methylparathion/methyl-bromide-ext.html

 

[6] Zaunbrecher V, Hattis D, Melnick R, Malloy T, et al. 2015. Exposure and Interaction: The Potential Health impacts of Using Multiple Pesticides. University of California Los Angeles School of Law and the Fielding School of Public Health Sustainable Technology & Policy Program.

 

 

LIKE & SHARE buttons:

Another 9-11

June 2 2015 DPR public workshop Salinas, CA

June 2, 2015 California Department of Pesticide Regulation public workshop Cesar Chavez Library Salinas, CA

Our Safe Strawberry Working Group met last night at the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council Offices in Salinas with the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner, Eric Lauritzen and seven other county, state, and federal pesticide regulatory officials. This meeting was a follow-up to the June 2 public meeting that overflowed the Cesar Chavez library in Salinas, one of  a series of workshops around the state conducted by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to solicit public input from the communities most affected by pesticide use near public schools.  IMG_6317

IMG_6319

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ag Commissioner Lauritzen began last night’s meeting with a request that the gathering be framed in a collaborative rather than an adversarial spirit. He gave assurances that county, state, and federal regulators are doing all they can to study the situation. Melissa, a teacher from Pajaro Valley’s Ohlone Elementary made it clear that, while the people in the room want to be respectful and collaborative, they have patiently waited for years for “further studies”. She told us about her colleague and friend who is battling cancer after teaching for years next to the fields, and she demanded immediate action to reduce pesticide exposure around schools, including implementation of mandatory one-mile buffer zones.IMG_6312

Buffer Zones Around Schools:
Currently, the state of  California has no standardized regulations regarding pesticide-free buffer zones between schools and chemical-intensive agricultural fields. Practice from one county to another varies widely. The state DPR representatives indicated that the matter is still “under study”, and that it will be a long time before their office sets any new rules for buffer zones. Safe Strawberry Working Group has countered with a proposal that, if the state cannot act to standardize adequate buffer zones in a timely manner, then the County ag commissioner should immediately set a buffer zone requirement of one mile for our local community.

State, County, and Federal Pesticide Regulators

Eric Lauritzen, Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner; Bob Roach Assistant Ag Commissioner; Karen Stahlman, Chief Deputy Ag Commissioner; Marylou Verder-Carlos, Assistant Director, California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR); George Farnsworth, Assistant Director, CDPR; Randy Segawa, Special Assistant, CDPR; Kathy Taylor, USEPA Region IX; Dr. Ed Moreno, Monterey County Public Health Officer

County Ag Commissioner Lauritzen stated that it is not within his power to set regulations on buffer zones.  One of the other officials said she thought that the city council and the planning commission are the agencies with that authority. However, according to Mark Weller, Director of the Safe Strawberry Working Group, it IS the legal authority of the county agricultural commissioner to make rules regarding buffer zones, granted in state code (Section 11503.5 of the Food and Agricultural Code), and city councils and planning commissions have no authority in pesticide matters. A representative of Sustainable Monterey challenged Lauritzen, stating that if the people asking him for better protection from pesticides were affluent white residents of Carmel rather than teachers and farmworkers from Salinas, he would act swiftly.

 A representative of the federal Environmental Protection Agency explained that all regulatory decisions have to be based on a careful cost-benefit analysis. She reminded the group that California agriculture provides a large percentage of California’s revenue. A person in the group asked where all that revenue is going,  and why can’t some of that money be used to provide better notification of pesticide applications to communities.IMG_6324

Call to Action:
According to Lauritzen, the Salinas school board recently purchased a tract of land adjacent to chemical-intensive agricultural fields on Boranda Road and plans to build a new school there. Lauritzen showed a map of the proposed school site. The group expressed incredulity and outrage.

IMG_6330There will be hearings in the near future about the proposed new school. All are urged to get involved by attending the hearings, as well as contacting the school board, the city council, and the planning commission. In addition, no matter where you live or how old you are, if you’re concerned about pesticide exposure near schools, please sign the Californians for Pesticide Reform petition calling for the Santa Cruz and Monterey County Agriculture Commissioners to require one mile buffer zones around schools.

Another 9-11:
A recent 9-11 call from school personnel who were afraid that a neighboring farmer was spraying toxic pesticides brought an immediate response of police and rescue personnel. The call was, according to the ag commissioner, an expensive false alarm: the spray the farmer was using while disking his field was water.  Everyone in the room agreed that more effective communication between growers and the community is needed.IMG_6316Observing the interaction between regulators and activists, I felt I perceived glimmers of the professional masks beginning to melt and crack open in the extreme heatwave we’ve been experiencing this week. There is still a wide gap between points of view, a lack of understanding between the two sides of the room, but I thought I saw glimpses last night of the real human faces under the masks – vulnerable, afraid. Worried about the future of their children, their families. Concerned about the future of agriculture, and the future of the world. I sensed in the room last night that everyone – pesticide regulators and citizens – has now at least started to hear on some level the 9-11 call that is going out all over the planet.

No one in the room last night mentioned Climate Change, but after the meeting I had a private conversation in the parking lot with one of the CAL DPR scientists. She told me that when the US does ban a toxic chemical, it’s usually re-marketed overseas –  that she’s from the Philippines and has experienced this in her own country. She acknowledged that the problems we now face with agriculture are not just local, but global. Chemical intensive ag, heavily dependent on fossil fuels from production to shipping and distribution, cannot be sustained. As our global climate changes, the geography of arable land is shifting. It’s urgent that we redesign our agricultural system now to adapt to the changes coming. We must learn how to frame this challenge collaboratively. We must learn how to grow food without further harming our land and ourselves. We must learn to see one another – all beings  – not as adversaries but as interconnected and interdependent relations, each an essential thread in the web of life.  This  is a 9-11 call for our planet. It is not a false alarm. We need to act now to save all that we love.

Pesticides And Schools Video (short)

Full Video from the meeting @ https://youtu.be/1cd2ubxHWNk

LIKE & SHARE buttons:

Organic and Sustainable Agriculture – Re-Designing the Food System

I’ve taken the last 6 months away from my novel to go back to classroom teaching in the Pajaro River Valley. My middle school classroom – a well-equipped computer lab in a state-of-the-art Google Classroom paperless school – is surrounded by agricultural fields. Many of my 7th and 8th grade students are children of freseros – strawberry workers.

I received a call to come back to Pajaro Valley School District for this one semester position because a dear colleague and old friend of mine was unable to finish the year and needed a replacement. She was stricken with a bone cancer linked to pesticides used around the school where she taught for over thirty years.

[Addendum: I wrote this post in May, 2015. I’m very sorry to say my friend and colleague Betty Geesman, died of Multiple Myeloma in June. ]

I feel as though my novel has come alive and I’ve stepped into its pages. The school where I’m teaching is at the epicenter of Fruit of the Devil. The bell of Our Lady of Help Church tolls hourly, just across the highway. And the St. Francis, the Catholic high school built upon the site of an Ohlone burial ground, which provides backstory for one of my main characters, is on the other side of the cyclone fence from my computer lab.

I’ve been shocked to find that so many of my students appear to be in a state of extreme mental and emotional chaos – more so than the average middle school adolescent. Attention deficit, hyperactivity, and Autism spectrum disorders are rampant. There are obviously many factors contributing to this, including poor nutrition and the proliferation of the cell phones, mp3 players, and the Chrome Book laptops to which every student is now constantly connected. But according to recent research findings, it is likely that much of the neurological anomalies we are seeing in the Central California schools are caused by long-term exposure to pesticide neurotoxins.

According to a soon-to-be-released California Health Report article < http://www.healthycal.org/ > Dangerous Drift by Lily Dayton:

In 1999, researchers from UC Berkeley began studying how pesticides affect the health of people living in the Salinas Valley. Researchers have studied hundreds of Latino families
who work in agriculture. Mothers in the study had higher levels of metabolites from
organophosphate pesticides in their urine than women in the general population. Related to chemicals developed during World War II for nerve gas, organophosphates are neurotoxins.
Children of mothers with the highest levels of organophosphates were more likely to have developmental problems, including abnormal reflexes, autism-related conditions, low IQ
and indicators of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the study found.

Mixtec Immigrant Picking Strawberries

I thought that when I returned to the Pajaro Valley to teach, I’d be able to interest other teachers in the struggle to reform pesticide exposure around the schools. It’s been discouraging to find that everyone is overwhelmed by the stressful demands of the job, and few teachers want to discuss the subject of pesticide exposure or even think about it.

Nevertheless, it was a source of tremendous hope to reconnect recently with Dick Pexiote, the uncle of one of my students 20 years ago when teachers, parents and community members founded Farm without Harm to promote organic agriculture. Dick is the owner of Lakeside Organics, the largest family-owned and operated solely organic vegetable grower/shipper in the US. When I dropped by his Watsonville office one afternoon after school about a month ago, he welcomed me and told me he remembered very well the teachers’ fight to end pesticide drift. He said it was partly our efforts that first got him thinking seriously about going organic. Dick’s courageous transition, when fellow growers told him he’d “lost his marbles”, has not only been an inspiration to many others, but has also turned out to be a very profitable business decision.

In the 1990’s conventional growers were calling Organic Agriculture a “Communist Plot” and telling those of us with the dream of a model sustainable agricultural valley to, “Go back to Cuba”. Today, 30% of Santa Cruz County’s agriculture is organic. When Farm without Harm was founded in the mid 90’s, we teachers  proposed writing grants to help family farmers make the costly transition to organic. Now, there are millions of dollars in state grants available to farmers who want to transition to sustainable food production practices. Societal change can take a long time. But I  hear the voice of my favorite teacher, the late Dr. Kenneth Norris, saying, “Never give up.”

Farm without Harm no longer exists, but Pesticide Action Network, the organization that helped us file pesticide use permit challenges back in the 90’s, is now part of a broad coalition of environmental groups under the umbrella Californians for Pesticide Reform.

The CPR coalition has asked California Department of Pesticide Regulation to focus on development of a statewide policy to protect school children, staff and families from agricultural pesticide use near schools, parks and homes.

This spring and early summer the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) will conduct a series of workshops around the state to solicit public input from the communities most affected by pesticide use near public schools. 

Everyone who is concerned about childhood and community pesticide exposure should take this opportunity to attend a workshop where you can meet face to face with the state regulators. Together we can make real change! Please come out and make your voice heard. We need to fill the halls!

Workshops are scheduled for:

May 28th: Cal EPA Building, Sierra Room  
                  1001 I Street
                  SACRAMENTO, CA 95814
3:00 pm: Grower & pesticide applicator issues
5:30 pm: Community, parent, & teacher issues (with simultaneous Spanish translation)
June 2nd: Cesar Chavez Library
                  615 Williams Rd.
                  SALINAS, CA 93905
3:00 pm: Grower & pesticide applicator issues
5:30 pm: Community, parent, & teacher issues (with simultaneous Spanish translation)
 
June 3rd: Ventura County Govt. Center
                  Board of Supervisors Room
                  800 South Victoria Ave.
                  VENTURA, CA 93009
3:00 pm: Grower & pesticide applicator issues

June 3rd: Rio Mesa High School Library
                 545 Central Ave.
                 OXNARD, CA 93036
7:00 pm: Community, parent, & teacher issues (with simultaneous Spanish and Mixteco (Baja) translation)
June 4th: Kern County Library – Lamont Branch
                 8394 Segrue Rd.
                 LAMONT, CA 93241
3:00 pm: Grower & pesticide applicator issues
5:30 pm: Community, parent, & teacher issues (with simultaneous Spanish translation)

June 9th: City of Coachella Corporate Yard
                 53-462 Enterprise Way
                 COACHELLA, CA 92236
3:00 pm: Grower & pesticide applicator issues
5:30 pm: Community, parent, & teacher issues (with simultaneous Spanish translation)

LIKE & SHARE buttons: