Originally published in the Salinas Californian. Access online at https://www.thecalifornian.com/story/opinion/soapboxes/2015/06/05/pesticides-schools-documented-bad-mix/28554969/
The frivolous comparisons for pesticide use and nearby schools in Dennis Taylor’s column of June 2 should be replaced with something relevant to the damage already documented: smoking guns and injured kids? Massive oil spills and dead sea creatures?
Scientific studies of the hazards of pesticide “drift” and illness in children and farm workers has been documented for more than 20 years specific to Monterey County (Google CHAMACOS, CEHPT, UC Davis Public Health, etc.)
Also documented are the violations of the existing inadequate “rules” (not laws, unfortunately), the unfortunate accidents reported in The Californian, the spike in serious illnesses and developmental disorders in children born to farm workers exposed to pesticide fumigants even before the children are themselves directly exposed because of attending schools located close to toxic fields. Families, businesses, even travelers passing by with their windows rolled down, are all getting repeated low doses of numerous pesticides many days of the year.
But the status quo is defended by the agencies and industries most invested in not making changes — public health science and statistics be damned. A ruling by the Office of Civil Rights regarding a complaint from farm workers in 2001 was finally issued in 2013:
“Based upon a review of the investigative information ... OCR has initially concluded that there is sufficient evidence to make a preliminary finding of a prima facie violation of Title VI as a result of the adverse disparate impact upon Latino schoolchildren in California from the application of methyl bromide between 1995 and 2001. [Title VIComplaint 16R-99-R9].
Recommendations follow but seem not to have been deemed important enough for fumigation practices to change.
Newer pesticides are now added to the list with the exception of methyl iodide, which was approved by both the US and California Environmental Protection Agencies but was successfully rejected by local counties, and the manufacturer withdrew to less well-informed countries. And there are only minimal token adjustments to the inadequate protections now on the Department of Pesticide Regulation books.
Lead poisoning, DDT, thalidomide, fetal alcohol syndrome, cigarette smoking were all fought fiercely by their corporate creators by discrediting existing science, asking for “hard data” while paying no attention to what already existed, pooh-poohing the medical and social damage wreaked by their products. This present unbridled damage is more of the same.
Carole Erickson is a member of the Safe Strawberry Monterey County working group.