Science linking pesticides to
childhood health harms increasingly strong
, PAN study reveals
Seven of the eight most heavily used pesticides in California are known or probable carcinogens. Children born to mothers living within a mile of organophosphate pesticide applications are 60% more likely to have Autism Spectrum Disorder. And Latino school children in California are twice as likely as their white peers to attend schools with the heaviest pesticide use nearby.
These are among the ma
ny findings documented in Pesticide Action Network's new study Kids on the Frontline: How Pesticides are Undermining the Health of Rural Children, which was released May 10. The study is a compilation of the latest science linking pesticide use to a wide array of childhood health harms, including cancer, autism, ADHD, asthma, and developmental delays. The study includes an in-depth look at four states at the frontlines of industrial agriculture: California, Iowa, Minnesota and Hawai'i.
"Children in agricultural communities are on the frontline of exposure to pesticides that don't respect boundaries," said Emily Marquez, PhD, an endocrinologist and staff scientist at PAN, as well as one of the authors of the report. "Pesticides linked to cancer and neurological harm travel through air, water and dust and end up in homes and schools, and eventually in children's bodies."
The challenges children face are part of what leading researchers have termed a "silent pandemic" of diseases driven by environmental factors, including pesticides. Rates of childhood leukemia and brain tumors have risen forty-plus percent in the last fifty years and one in every six U.S. children are now diagnosed with one or more developmental disabilities.
In a series of press conferences held in Kern, Sonoma and Monterey Counties, community members, parents, teachers and children's health advocates highlighted the report's findings and urged DPR to act swiftly to require a one-mile buffer zone around schools and to take immediate action to require growers to notify communities when drift-prone pesticides are being applied nearby.
Troubling new report reveals EPA's reluctance to enforce civil rights of Latino schoolchildren in California
from the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment documents the US EPA's persistent unwillingness to enforce Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in programs that receive federal money.
The report details the flagrant foot-dragging and lack of transparency in the EPA's handling of Angelita C. vs California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), a 1999 case filed by parents in Oxnard alleging discriminatory impact of pesticides on Latino school children. It took the EPA 12 years to issue its first-ever finding of a Civil Rights Act violation - a ruling it was legally required to deliver within 6 months.
In 2011, the EPA and DPR reached a settlement that did nothing to reduce pesticide use near California schools and failed to involve the plaintiffs in the case. Moreover, the EPA limited its investigation to methyl bromide, which has since been phased out under international treaty, and ignored the fumigants that are increasingly used in its place.
And in a further slap in the face to frontline communities, the EPA has now proposed amendments to its Civil Rights Act regulations that would grant it discretion to decline to investigate claims of discrimination and remove all deadlines, allowing investigations to drag on for years. Current regulations require that all claims be investigated and a ruling issued within six months.
"The EPA wants to have absolute discretion to decide whether or not it will protect the civil
rights of Latino children in California, African-American residents of Flint, or anyone else suffering racial discrimination, and even argued in court last month that judges have no power
to review EPA's conduct," said Brent Newell, CRPE Legal Director and author of
A Right Without a Remedy
does not pay attention to the discriminatory impacts that environmental laws have on communities of color and ignores the Civil Rights Act
that no person shall be subjected to
The report recommends that EPA should disclose all of the
documents without redactions, rescind its proposed amendments to its Title VI regulations, dedicate more resources for civil rights enforcement, eliminate its internal institutional barriers blocking civil rights enforcement, and use its authority under the Civil Rights Act to remedy the discriminatory effects of fumigants in California, including requiring the Department of Pesticide Regulation to implement buffer zones and to less toxic alternatives.
Action Alert: Tell DPR that communities have the right to know when hazardous drift-prone fumigants are being applied nearby
Fumigant application next to Gabilan School, Salinas
This month's new reports by PAN and CRPE make it abundantly clear that rural schoolchildren in California face an array of health harms from agriculture's continued reliance on pesticides, and that Latino schoolchildren face the greatest risk.
As a bare minimum, frontline communities must have the opportunity to be informed when the most harmful pesticides are let loose in their neighborhoods.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR)
is inviting public comment
on proposed new regulations that would require growers to notify neighbors before fumigant pesticides are used. Fumigants are among the most hazardous and the most drift-prone agricultural pesticides in use, and are among the most heavily used within a quarter mile of schools. More info is
At two workshops held by DPR last month in Spreckels (Monterey County) and Fresno, community members showed up in droves to demand notification for all schools and residences within a mile of proposed fumigant applications. As usual, new regulations aimed at protecting communities face fierce industry opposition.
The window for public comment is now open, until
May 20. You can take action on behalf of affected rural communities by submitting a comment to DPR.
To: Randy Segawa
Department of Pesticide Regulation
PO Box 4015
Sacramento, CA 95812-4015
Re: Comprehensive Right to Know Regarding Fumigant Application
Dear Mr. Segawa,
People who live, work or go to school near fields that are going to be fumigated must be notified so that they have a chance to take simple precautions to protect their health and that of their children.
A study of drift incidents has found that 85% of the harmed victims were within a mile of the application. Therefore automatic written bilingual notification is needed at least one week ahead of planned fumigations for all residences, schools and businesses within one mile.
Written notification in English and Spanish should include:
- The name of the fumigant to be used
- Date and time fumigation is expected to begin
- Immediate symptoms of exposure and chronic health risks
- Farm name and business phone number, and address of the field to be fumigated
- Contact number of County Agricultural Commissioner and instructions of where to call at night and weekends to report problems
- Explanation of and link to the state's pesticide drift emergency medical reimbursement process
When a school is in the notification area, parents should receive notification via "robot-call" systems, along with written notice prominently posted at the school and on the school's website. Other institutions and businesses should post the written notification in an accessible central location.
And when the state's air monitors find concentrations of fumigants above the recommended safe levels, they should immediately notify local officials and all residents within one mile.
The right to know when hazardous chemicals will be unleashed in neighborhoods is a matter of basic social justice, and a minimal safeguard. Notification is necessary but not enough. State officials must act to phase these hazardous, drift-prone chemicals out entirely, and replace them with safe alternatives.
[your name, your address]."