Originally published in the Salinas Californian. Access online at https://www.thecalifornian.com/story/opinion/2018/05/04/opinion-we-must-protect-salinas-farmworkers-pesticides/581069002/
California accounts for approximately 21 percent of all agricultural pesticide use in the country. Salinas is considered one of the major cities with agriculture production.
In Salinas, many farmworkers are being negatively impacted by the pesticides exposure in the agricultural fields. Chronic diseases, such as cancer and asthma are caused by pesticides, affecting the farmworkers and their families. Major part as to why farmworkers are being affected by pesticides is because farmworkers lack pesticides literacy.
Farmworkers are not being properly trained and educated in pesticides, how to protect themselves and how to protect their families. The General Duty Clause, standardized by OSHA states employers must provide their employees a workplace free from hazards that can cause harm to employees.
Also, the General Duty Clause states that employers must follow with health and safety regulations. Growers must provide pesticide literacy to farmworkers to protect their health and safety at work. Personal protective equipment must be provided at work: face masks, boots, gloves, sleeve arm protectors, hats and unvented goggles.
Pesticides are inhaled and consumed by farmworkers. In Salinas, farmworkers are exposed to pesticides many hours every day that can cause chronic diseases in the long run in farmworkers. Some of the chronic diseases that pesticides can cause: elevated risks of cancers, neurobehavioral deficits, congenital malformations, leukemia and neoplasm.
The pesticides accumulate over time in the body when one is exposed. Pesticides with low acute toxicity such as organic mercury compounds and some organochlorine compounds can accumulate in the body and cause chronic toxicity after long-term exposure even in comparatively low doses.
Most farmworkers do not recognize the symptoms of toxicity from pesticides; therefore, it is very important that they are aware of the importance of protecting themselves from pesticides. Health care can be an issue when farmworkers are exposed and end up not seeking medical attention because it is too expensive.
Farmworkers carry residues of pesticides on their clothing and bring it home with them. Children are physiologically and neurologically at greater risks for pesticide exposure and pesticide reaction. Children spend most of their time playing on the house floor and is where most pesticides residues remain.
Children who are exposed to pesticides have higher risks of childhood cancers, neurobehavioral effects and congenital malformation. Farmworkers must be educated on the residues of pesticides on their clothes and shoes and how to avoid bringing them to home. Health and safety policies must be implemented at work for the health and well-being of the workforce.
It is the responsibility of the growers, managers, and supervisors to ensure that the occupational health and safety policies are being implemented to protect farmworkers health and wellbeing. By protecting farmworkers under the health and safety policies, they will spend less time in doctor visits, hospitals and time off due to the negative side effects of pesticides. By maintaining farmworkers healthy at work, growers will spend less time dealing with workers compensation bills due to worker pesticide intoxication.
Farmers will be more successful in providing product to the market, thus positively impacting the company’s bottom line.
Farmworkers have the right to be educated on how to protect themselves and their families against pesticide exposure. Consumers, markets owners, restaurants owners, people who need fresh fruits and vegetables for their business to be up and running should form part of the advocacy to protect farmworkers and their family’s health and wellbeing from pesticide exposure.
There are programs in Salinas that are advocating for pesticides health issues in farmworkers: The United Farm Workers and CHAMACOS. Let’s all help with the advocacy of the importance that the Salinas California community of farmworkers has pesticide literacy to protect their health. By advocating the health issue growers will be more aware of the problem and they will be more willing to act to protect farm workers against pesticide exposure. Whenever you eat fruits, and vegetables think about those farmworkers who are being affected by pesticide exposure. We must protect farm workers who cut and produce the fresh vegetables that we eat every day.
Brenda Fernandez is a public health graduate student at San Jose State University and former resident of Watsonville and Monterey.
Originally published in the Salinas Californian. Access online at www.thecalifornian.com/story/opinion/2018/04/25/opinion-one-year-later-still-waiting-california-ban-brain-harming-pesticide/546829002/
Like many Californians, you’re probably suffering from "Trump Overload." It can be a struggle to remember last week’s headlines, let alone last year’s. All those insults and lies, all those horrible decisions – it can be overwhelming.
But last month was the anniversary of a decision that really hit home for me, and for everyone living wherever food is grown in California. It was the day Trump’s EPA reversed a proposed ban of a particularly nasty pesticide called chlorpyrifos.
How bad is this stuff? EPA scientists say it’s so bad, it should not be used on food crops, ever, in any amount. Chlorpyrifos is a nerve agent like Sarin, designed to attack the nervous system of insects. Unfortunately, it also works on the nervous system of babies and children, whose developing brains can suffer irreversible harm from exposure to even tiny amounts.
By the way, California doesn’t use tiny amounts. In fact, in 2015 alone California used more than a million pounds.
Chlorpyrifos and its health impacts have already been exhaustively studied. Based on a large and growing body of scientific evidence, EPA scientists concluded that children under age two risk exposure levels 140 times higher than what is considered safe, just from eating fruits and vegetables. Imagine the exposure risk for children who live, learn and play near fields where it’s sprayed.
I don’t have to imagine. Those children are in my classroom.
I know what it’s like to teach classes overwhelmed with learning and behavioral issues.
Ask me about the kids in my class with asthma, ADHD, autism. Many of my struggling second-grade students don’t even have a diagnosis, because there aren’t enough psychologists and resource specialists to assess all the students that need it.
Here in California, where more chlorpyrifos is used than in any other state, our elected officials have staked out a position as leaders of the anti-Trump Resistance, especially when it comes to the treatment of immigrants. It’s immigrants and their children who suffer by far the greatest risk of exposure to chlorpyrifos.
In fact, Latino children in Monterey County are 320 percent more likely than their white peers to attend one of the schools most impacted by hazardous pesticide use nearby.
So, one year after the EPA’s decision, what is California doing about the scourge of chlorpyrifos? The good news is that Senator Kamala Harris has signed on to legislation that would ban chlorpyrifos nationally (but will fail in the current Congress). California’s Attorney General Becerra has joined with seven other Attorneys General in challenging the EPA’s decision. And the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment just added it to the list of Prop. 65 chemicals.
But our own regulator, the Department of Pesticide Regulation, has taken little meaningful action. DPR ignored the conclusion of US EPA scientists that led them to propose a ban, as well as the science behind that proposal. They’ve announced pitifully weak “Interim recommended permit conditions” that counties can implement to increase protections – including setbacks of as little as 150 feet.
By way of perspective, in one incident in Kern County last year, chlorpyrifos drifted for half a mile or more. And meanwhile DPR continues their “study” of one of the most thoroughly studied pesticides currently used in California – a process that will take months or even years.
During those months and years, countless more babies and children may suffer irreversible harm. And by second grade, some of them will show up in my classroom.
Oscar Ramos is a second-grade teacher at Sherwood Elementary School in Salinas, president of the Salinas Elementary Teachers Council, and recipient of the California Teachers Association Cesar Chavez “Sí, Se Puede” Human Rights Award.
Originally published in the Salinas California. Access online at www.thecalifornian.com/story/opinion/2018/03/27/letter-editor-celebrating-chavez-while-mourning-epa-reversal-chlorpyrifos-ban/463685002/
The anniversary of two important events in history are approaching – the birth of the great civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, who with Dolores Huerta led the struggle to gain basic human rights for farmworkers, and the EPA’s reversal under Scott Pruitt of the proposed ban of chlorpyrifos, a developmental neurotoxin used on crops in the US.
We celebrate the former and mourn the latter. Advocates across the nation were deeply disappointed in the EPA’s failure to protect children, farmworkers, the general population and the environment by extending legal use of chlorpyrifos. The November 2016 EPA risk assessment for chlorpyrifos deemed the chemical too dangerous for use, so who is Scott Pruitt listening to? A good guess would be gigantic corporate money interests!
Soon after Pruitt’s decision, over 50 farmworkers were sickened outside of Bakersfield when chlorpyrifos drifted from a nearby field, in high enough levels to cause nausea, vomiting, and fainting.
The legacy of Cesar Chavez will be honored with a march and rally but we will not celebrate the current EPA leadership, that is ensuring continued use of this poison in fields and around neighborhoods and schools. In the words of Corretta Scott King, “Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation.” Let’s continue Cesar’s noble fight and not give up until chlorpyrifos and other harmful pesticides are out of the fields. See you at the Cesar Chavez march on April 8th.
- Christie Turano, Salinas
Greenfield, CA – On March 8, 2018 the Board of Trustees of Greenfield Union School
District voted unanimously to pass a first of its kind pesticide safety resolution. Brought
to the board by member Sonia Heredia, 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
Agricultural pesticide use near schools has been identified as an important problem in
the Salinas Valley by community members, who echo the findings of a 2014 Department
of Public Health (DPH) report that found that one in four Monterey County students
attend a school within a quarter mile of the heaviest 25% of pesticide use in the entire
state. The department’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 as 4 th and 9 th in the entire state
for the pounds of the developmental neurotoxicant chlorpyrifos applied within a
This resolution follows the state Department of Pesticide Regulation’s January 1, 2018
rule that prohibits most drift-prone pesticide applications from occurring within a
quarter-mile of public schools or daycares from the hours of 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM on
school days. Among other things like educating families about the hazards of pesticide
exposure and reexamining 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
Yanely Martinez, Greenfield City Council member, and her son, Victor Torres of 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.
Sorangel Tinajero is a Community Organizer with Lideres Campesinas, who is finishing
up its Pesticide Awareness Month activities throughout the state. “It’s empowering to
see that more and more community members are getting up and talking about pesticide drift. We understand that this resolution is just the first step – we need to keep the
conversation going,” Tinajero said.
Sonia Heredia, Clerk of the Board, introduced the resolution and 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.”
Lucia Calderon, Safe Ag Safe Schools, 408-728- 5661
Yanely Martinez, Greenfield City Council, 831-613- 6821
Allowing Chlorpyrifos use in greenfield is Environmental racism - By Yanely Martinez, Greenfield city councilwoman
Originally published in Salinas 93905. Access online at https://salinas93905.com/2018/01/31/guest-column-councilwoman-speaks-out-against-the-dangers-of-chlorpyrifos/
I see so many good things in Greenfield – our community involvement, our diverse cultural events, and our bright young scholars. But one of my greatest fears for this city is something we can’t see: pesticide drift and its many health threats.
Among the most concerning pesticides applied to Salinas Valley fields is chlorpyrifos. It belongs to a class of chemicals called organophosphates, which were developed as nerve gases by the Nazis. So, while chlorpyrifos is used widely – more than one million pounds a year in California fields – to kill bugs, the class of chemicals it belongs to was once used to attack the nervous system of people.
And we now know chlorpyrifos does indeed damage human nervous systems. The evidence is right here in the Salinas Valley, found by UC Berkeley’s Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas, better known as CHAMACOS. Its longitudinal study, involving hundreds of Salinas Valley women and children over the past 18 years, found that the kids most exposed in the womb to organophosphate pesticides, including chlorpyrifos, also tended to have poorer cognitive function, abnormal reflexes, increased risk of ADHD, and lower IQs, as well as decreased lung function. On November 29, 2017, the California EPA Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment considered the scientific evidence of the last 8 years and identified chlorpyrifos as a Prop 65 Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant.
This awful stuff has been used in Greenfield and near Greenfield schools at some of the highest rates in the state. In the only study ever done about pesticide use near California schools published in 2014, the Department of Public Health found that Greenfield High and Vista Verde Middle had the 4th and 9th highest amounts in all of California of chlorpyrifos applied within ¼-mile of the schools. Amounts can vary significantly from year to year, but the most recent pesticide use reports from 2015 indicate that these two Greenfield public schools still have more chlorpyrifos applied in their square mile sections than any other schools in the Monterey Bay region.
The chlorpyrifos story should have ended by now. In November 2016, the US EPA scientists recommended an effective ban on chlorpyrifos. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration ignored its own scientists and refused to ban the pesticide. I know I’m not the only one who expected Trump’s administration to attack immigrant communities, the environment, and science; but I did not expect the State of California to do the same. In this state, we’re supposed to be resisting such attacks!
Rather than suspend or ban chlorpyrifos in California, DPR called for a years-long review process and recommended a range of “setback distances” between chlorpyrifos applications and occupied “sensitive sites” like schools of 150 to 500 feet. 500 feet is not even 1½ soccer fields. And it doesn’t help Greenfield High or Vista Verde Middle, because schools in Monterey County already have a 500-foot separation from fields.
However hopeful, DPR’s new regulations restricting pesticide use around schools won’t protect us from chlorpyrifos, either. The Salinas airport pesticide air monitor, which was far more than 1,320 feet from chlorpyrifos applications, measured chlorpyrifos concentrations at three times higher than the federal health risk factor, according to the US EPA November 2016 report. Chlorpyrifos drifts for miles – even DPR’s formulas for estimating chlorpyrifos air concentrations rely on measuring applications up to 4 miles away. The 2014 UC Davis MIND Institute study found chlorpyrifos applications within 1 mile during pregnancy correlated with increased risk of a child with autism. Our children deserve more than 1,320 feet of protection from chlorpyrifos at school.
While DPR draws out years of bureaucratic review, hundreds of children born or soon-to-be-born in Greenfield continue to face increased risks of brain harm. The environmental racism of this policy puts communities and schools that are over 90% people of color, like those in Greenfield, at far greater risk than predominantly white communities.
You can’t really see chlorpyrifos, but you can certainly smell it. It’s got a bad odor – like rotten eggs or skunk. But California’s policy to allow chlorpyrifos use in the fields smells far worse. It smells of hate and racism.