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Stories On Pesticide Drift: Pesticides on the Playground

As told by Domitila Lemus of Plainview, CA.

Domitila has lived in this agricultural community for 30 years. She has three grandchildren who attend the nearby Sunnyside Elementary School. She recalls a visit to the school that went horribly wrong.

"We were at the school event. They do it every year. They invite the grandparents to visit the school. We were all outside, it was around 10:30 in the morning. We were gathered in the schoolyard, right next to the orchard. The kids were all playing.

"I saw a person on a tractor in the orchard, spraying. Nobody really noticed. Nobody really paid any attention. I started telling the rest of the grandparents, but they didn’t know what it was and they weren’t very interested. Some kids were running in relay races. And even though it wasn’t really hot, they started getting dizzy, couldn’t breathe. Kids started falling over.

"I called Irma [Medellin, a community activist with El Quinto Sol] and she called the Ag Commission. The inspectors came to the school that day and found the pesticide applicator had committed 11 violations. He didn’t even have a permit to spray. He had no protective gear. Some time later, we had a meeting with the owner of the farm and he asked us to show him the law that said they couldn’t spray near the school. There was nothing written. They could do whatever they wanted.

"I got mad. They had no concern for children’s safety or health. All they cared is that the trees would have fruit. They didn’t care that they were hurting the children.

"We had three meetings with the school, and finally reached an agreement. Now they can only spray on weekends near the school. So when Monday comes around, it’s not as dangerous. Under the new policy, the farm owners have to contact the school before they spray and the school informs the parents."

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