MARCH 2018


 Greenfield School District passes historic pesticide safety resolution 

Court orders CDFA to end pesticide program around homes, schools and parks

Chlorpyrifos update: State slow-walks its decision, Santa Cruz County steps up

Caught in the Drift: Stories from the frontlines

Trustees pass first-of-its-kind resolution protecting students and staff
GREENFIELD  - A school district in southern Monterey County, home to some of the most intensive pesticide use in the state, last week unanimously passed a first-of-its-kind pesticide safety resolution. Greenfield Union School District Resolution No. 1003 supports "protecting our staff and students from the health risks of agricultural pesticides by supporting a transition to less chemically-intensive agriculture and implementing buffer zones and notification systems for drift-prone pesticide applications around schools and neighborhoods."

Agricultural pesticide use near schools has been identified by community members as a critical problem in the Salinas Valley, echoing the findings of a 2014 California Department of Public Health (DPH) report that one in four Monterey County students attend a school within a quarter mile of the heaviest pesticide use in the state. Many of the pesticides most heavily used near schools are known to cause a range of health harms to children, including cancer, asthma, and neurological and behavioral impacts.

DPH's  Pesticide Use Mapping Tool reveals that pesticides applied near Greenfield schools include chemicals identified as toxic air contaminants, carcinogens and reproductive and developmental toxicants. The DPH report also identified Greenfield High School and Vista Verde Middle School in Greenfield as fourth and ninth in the entire state respectively for the amount of the developmental neurotoxicant chlorpyrifos applied within a quarter-mile.

This resolution follows the state Department of Pesticide Regulation's Jan. 1, 2018, rule that prohibits most drift-prone pesticide applications from occurring within a quarter-mile of public schools and daycares from  6am to 6pm on school days.

The Board resolution commits the district to a number of measures aimed at reducing pesticide exposure, including educating families about the hazards and examining the district's own use of toxic chemicals. The Board resolved to work with local and state pesticide regulators to "increase the health-protective zones around schools where highly hazardous pesticides are not to be applied" and "require at least one-week advance notification of highly hazardous agricultural pesticide use near schools."

Greenfield City Council member Yanely Martinez and her son Victor Torres, a student at Vista Verde Middle School, both spoke in favor of the resolution  on Thursday evening.

"I take my children's health seriously, and it's everyone's responsibility to speak up against pesticide use near schools," Martinez said.

Clerk of the Board Sonia Heredia, who introduced the resolution, wants the district to take its unanimous support as a call to action.

"It's important that school staff and parents know exactly when pesticide applications are happening around our schools," Heredia said. "Greenfield students deserve safe environments, and we should be doing all we can to work with the county to create stronger protections."

Court Orders CDFA to End Pesticide Program
Court rejects State's "blank check to spray people's yards"

A Sacramento judge last month ordered the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to immediately end a program that granted the State blanket authority to spray pesticides in parks, schools and homes, sidestepping its own rules requiring assessment of human and environmental harm. 

A coalition of environmental health and justice groups sued CDFA, documenting a long-standing pattern of spraying under emergency provisions that exempted the agency from full disclosure of health risks. CPR is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, which was led by the California Environmental Health Initiative.

"The court rejected the agency's blank check to spray people's yards, exposing children and pets to a range of pesticides that can cause serious long-term problems, including cancer, asthma, and IQ loss," said Debbie Friedman, founder of MOMS Advocating Sustainability, one of the groups that sued over the program.

The groups also alleged that some of the chemicals threaten public water, endangered species and bees that pollinate crops.

"It's a real opportunity for the state of California to transition to less toxic alternatives," said Jonathan Evans, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, which also was a party to the suit.

On March 12, CDFA filed an appeal of the ruling.

Excerpted and updated from "Judge orders California agricultural officials to cease pesticide use," The Los Angeles Times February 26, 2018.

Chlorpyrifos: California slow-walks its decision
Amid State delays, Santa Cruz steps up to increase local protection from brain-harming pesticide

As we reported last month, an independent Scientific Review Panel (SRP) is reviewing the Department of Pesticide Regulation's (DPR) latest Risk Assessment for the neurotoxic organophosphate chlorpyrifos, a pesticide so hazardous the US EPA proposed a total federal ban. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed the proposed ban a year ago, leaving the fate of the toxic nerve agent to the states. 

When they reconvened March 2, the SRP questioned DPR on the progress they've made toward strengthening the risk assessment to provide protection from developmental neurotoxicity, as the panel had ordered at the January hearing. 

DPR's response: Not much.  And the next SRP meeting scheduled for April has now been cancelled, to allow DPR lots more time for revisions.

After the meeting, DPR blithely tweeted "The SRP process has a long way to go - we believe in being thorough!" 

"Thorough" is good, but inaction is inexcusable. Today's children and babies can't wait.

While DPR slow-walks their review of one of the most hazardous - and most thoroughly studied - pesticides in use in California, no new restrictions have been proposed. That leaves in place DPR's weak - and voluntary - interim mitigations, which were based on the earlier risk assessment that the SRP had already slammed as inadequate.

Meanwhile, we're meeting with County Agricultural Commissioners to step up where the state and feds have failed. The Santa Cruz County Agricultural Commissioner has already taken steps to increase restrictions on chlorpyrifos use, including stronger notification and signage requirements, a ban on aerial applications, and a total 24/7 ban within 150' to 500' of sensitive sites. 

ACTION ALERT: Tell Gov. Brown to suspend chlorpyrifos immediately while the state finishes its lengthy review. We know enough to end it now.

Caught in the drift: Fidelia Morales
Tulare County mother of five blames son's learning difficulties on pesticide exposure

Next in our series Caught in the Drift, profiles of residents, teachers and farmers in farming communities captured by photographer Joan Cusick: 

Meet Lindsay resident Fidelia Morales.

Fidelia is an active member of Tulare County Coalition Advocating for Pesticide Safety (TC-CAPS), where she has become a vocal advocate for health-protective pesticide policy. 

Fidelia now speaks out in hearings and meetings in Sacramento, talks to the media, and takes a lead on reporting pesticide use violations in her neighborhood. 

"She's taken on a different vision of engagement," says Angel Garcia, organizer for TC-CAPS. "She's empowered and not afraid to talk about use of chemicals around her property."

Fidelia was profiled in a feature-length story by The Guardian (UK) about the impact of chlorpyrifos use in Tulare County.