JULY 2019


Trump's EPA once again says YES to brain-damaging chlorpyrifos

DPR's 2018 air monitoring data confirm growing problem with carcinogenic Telone

130 workers exposed in Tulare and Fresno mass pesticide poisonings

Many Ag Commissioners fail to serve Spanish-speaking residents

Welcome CPR new Organizing Director Sarait Martinez!

Photo Credit: Joan Cusick
US EPA again says 'YES' to brain-damaging chlorpyrifos on food crops
California steps in to protect children from neurotoxic chemical, first pesticide ever cancelled in the state

Photo credit: Joan Cusick
In a move as reprehensible as it was expected, the US EPA once again affirmed its commitment to continuing to allow a chemical known to cause permanent brain damage to be sprayed on food crops. The July 18 announcement affirming the reversal of the Obama Administration's proposed nationwide ban on the neurotoxic organophosphate chlorpyrifos came in response to an order by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that they finalize their decision and end the legal limbo. The announcement marks the latest twist in the years-long fight over its continued use. After a decade of study, the US EPA in November 2016 found that there was no safe level of use, and proposed a nationwide ban. That ban was reversed by the Trump Administration in March 2017 - after the chemical's manufacturer Dow gave more than $1m to Trump's inauguration. 

While the Trump Administration continues to roll back protections for most-impacted communities and the environment, Governor Newsom has stepped in to protect Californians. The Administration in May announced the beginning of cancellation proceedings - the first pesticide ever to be cancelled in the state. The cancellation process is expected to take up to two years. At the same time, the state has committed $5.7 million in funding for safe alternatives. After Hawaii and New York, California is the third state to announce a ban. 

"This decision by the US EPA is just the latest example of Trump's commitment to polluting industry and utter disregard for the health of communities and the environment," said Sarah Aird, co-director of Californians for Pesticide Reform. "Now more than ever, we are depending on our state for protection. We urge Governor Newsom to move with all speed to cancel chlorpyrifos in California."
2018 air monitoring data reveal serious problem with carcinogenic fumigant Telone
New regulation expected summer 2020, interim mitigations expected before then

Air monitoring data just released by the Department of Pesticide Regulation reveals a serious problem with Dow's carcinogenic fumigant 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D, or Telone), pushing DPR to conclude that a new rule currently in development must address acute exposure as well as cancer risk. The new rule is expected to be finalized in the summer of 2020. Meanwhile DPR is developing interim restrictions aimed at increasing protections. 

Last year, a dangerous spike was recorded in Shafter, Kern County - at 50ppb, the highest level ever recorded in California. When an air concentration of 30ppb was measured in Merced in 1990, Telone was banned for 5 years. The record set by the spike in Shafter was short-lived however - later the same year, a level of 111ppb was measured in Parlier, Fresno County. 

The air monitoring results also showed that the 13-week average concentration of Telone in Shafter was 5.6 parts per billion (ppb), which is significantly above the short-term (13-week) screening level of 3.0 ppb, indicating a chronic problem.

While they wait for the new rule, community members in Shafter are calling on DPR and the Kern County Ag Commissioner to immediately order growers to use tarps whenever Telone is applied, as a simple and effective measure to reduce drift. Although Telone is an extremely drift-prone fumigant used in very large quantities, the vast majority of applications in the San Joaquin Valley are untarped. 
130 workers e xposed in Tulare and Fresno mass pesticide p oisonings
Farmworkers protest pesticide use after two pesticide drift incidents in June 

28 July 2019 Protest in Fresno
Farmworkers protest at the Fresno County Ag Commissioner's office on July 28th, 2019. Photo from Fresno Bee
June is poison season in the San Joaquin Valley, as pesticide use ramps up with warming temperatures and ripening crops. Twice in June, farmworkers were doused in hazardous chemicals, poisoning 75 peach workers in Fresno County June 27 and another 63 table grape workers nine days earlier in Dinuba, Tulare County. Eight people were taken to area hospitals for medical treatment, and dozens more were treated on site. Earlier in June, a Merced County farmer died after being exposed to an agricultural chemical.

Mardonio Solorio and his 18 year-old daughter Addiline were part of the Dinuba workcrew the day they were sprayed with Hexythiazox, classified by the US EPA as a possible carcinogen. They recounted their experience in a recent interview. Mardonio witnessed many farmworkers falling ill and vomiting, and some even saying their last goodbyes to their families. It was windy at the time of the spray and the truck did not stop spraying when the workers noticed the smell and emerged from the field. Since the exposure, Mardonio has experienced symptoms such as dizziness, coughing up blood, a persistent cough and pain in his lungs. 
The Solorios accompanied CPR in a visit to the Department of Pesticide Regulation to express their concern for their community's health and the failure to protect farmworkers. They emphasized the need to be notified when pesticides are going to be applied to the fields, so workers can take necessary steps to protect themselves. 

Fresno farmworkers came together on July 28th to protest these events and demand that County Agricultural Commissioners improve protections for farmworkers.

Photo Credit: Visalia Times Delta
Three life-threatening pesticide exposure incidents in the space of three weeks should set off alarm bells for all Californians. Farmworkers pay a terrible price for California's decision to allow hazardous chemicals to be sprayed on fields of food crops. Industrial agriculture as it's currently practiced is sickening workers and residents alike, and for every case that makes headlines, there are countless more that are not reported. The reality is that farmworkers and residents are exposed to a potent cloud of toxic chemicals that grips the San Joaquin Valley for much of the year.

 Spanish-speaking residents often poorly served by ag commissioners
  Many offices can't take a call in Spanish

The majority of residents of California's farmworker communities are Latinx, including a sizable proportion that are mono-lingual Spanish speakers. Yet those at the frontline of protecting residents from pesticide harms - County Agricultural Commissioners - are often ill-equipped to serve them. 

That's the conclusion of a survey CPR conducted in June in an effort to assess the difficulties encountered by Spanish-speaking residents wishing to report pesticide drift or simply to ask questions. We called Ag Commissioner offices in major agricultural counties to ask, in Spanish, how to report pesticide drift. Ten of the 19 offices were unable to respond to the Spanish-speaking caller - Fresno, Imperial, Madera, Merced, Riverside, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Sutter, Ventura, and Yuba.

We also placed calls after hours to 18 Ag Commissioner offices to see if the voicemails of these offices were set up in Spanish and included information on what to do in the case of a pesticide emergency. Only five offices (Fresno, Imperial, Kern Monterey and Ventura Counties) 
had a voicemail recording in Spanish. Butte, Madera, Merced, Napa, Riverside, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Sutter, Tulare and Yolo only had an English recording. 

We also searched Ag Commissioner websites for information on reporting pesticide incidents. In most cases, the information was either missing or hard to find. Kudos to Kern, Napa, Monterey, San Joaquin, Riverside, and Tulare for having readily accessible information in English and Spanish. Yolo, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Louis Obispo, and Fresno counties' websites included reporting information but it was buried in an obscure location. Butte, Imperial, Kings, Madera, Merced, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Sutter, and Yuba counties had no information on their websites about what to do in a pesticide drift emergency.

County Ag Commissioners are charged with protecting community health, and that starts with clear communication in the languages spoken by residents. We call on Ag Commissioner offices - especially those in agricultural counties - to improve access to services, including a translation service so that live calls can be handled appropriately; a voicemail message recorded in Spanish; and accurate reporting information prominently placed on county websites.
Welcome  new Organizing Director Sarait Martinez!
Former Monterey and Santa Cruz County Community Organizer takes on new role.
Photo Credit: Brian Fox
Californians for Pesticide Reform is delighted to announce that our Monterey organizer Sarait Martinez has accepted a new role as Organizing Director. Sarait joined CPR core staff in 2018 as coordinator of the three Safe Ag Safe Schools coalitions in Watsonville, Salinas and Greenfield. In her new role, she will continue to coordinate the Greenfield coalition.

Sarait has worked as a community and labor organizer for over a decade in the Central and Salinas Valley. Her core values are rooted in social and environmental justice.  As a daughter of farmworkers, her passion is to work with farmworkers and indigenous communities. Sarait holds a BA in Political Science and Chicano and Latin American Studies and a Masters in Public Administration from CSU Fresno.