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Stories On Pesticide Drift: A Cloud Over Earlimart

As told by Esteban Agpalza of Earlimart, CA.

In 1999, Esteban was among the 250 people in Earlimart, CA who became violently ill after a cloud of pesticides drifted over the town. Sitting on his front patio, across the street from a fallow field, he recalls the events of that November night.

"They were spraying in the potato field. The wind started blowing. It looked like fog, it was about ten feet above. I looked overhead and thought 'what is that smell?' It smelled like a chemical so I told my grandson and granddaughter 'Oh my God, Go inside, go inside!' But I stayed outside for a little bit, then thought 'I can't handle this' and went in the house. That's when I started vomiting.

"That night, I vomited all night. In the morning, it was my granddaughter's christening. I couldn't handle it, I was running to the bathroom, sick. I missed the christening. I drank some Pepto Bismol, it helped a little bit. But my eyes were watering, and a headache. Six months later, I was still having headaches.

"Before the accident I was healthy. I worked in the fields. I picked, I pruned. But even now, I get headaches, my vision is blurry. I take some Advil for the headaches. Go to the eye doctor for glasses. I'm scared, I heard if you inhale the chemicals, you can get cancer. I am scared."

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The Faces and Voices of Pesticide Poisoning

Each year, nearly a billion pounds of pesticides are sprayed in fields and orchards across the country. As the families who live nearby can tell you: those pesticides don't always stay in the fields and orchards where they're sprayed.