Genoveva Galvez knows there are pesticides inside her body. What she really wants to know is this: how does she get rid of them? The dark-haired high school freshman has a pretty good idea of how these nerve-damaging chemicals got there in the first place.
She remembers one sweltering summer evening in particular. Genoveva was sitting with her mother and a cousin on the front stoop of her family's modest home in California's Central Valley. Dusk was just settling in between the branches of the nearby olive trees and orange groves when a sickly smell began to burn their eyes and sent them reeling indoors. With nowhere else to go, they closed the doors and windows and waited it out in the oppressive heat.
Later, Irma Medellin with the local organization El Quinto Sol, dropped by to ask if they'd ever had problems with nearby spraying. She was looking for people to join a pesticide monitoring study. Genoveva reminded her family of that night and convinced them to sign up for the study. With the help of scientists from Pesticide Action Network, Genoveva and her family set up a device in their backyard to measure pesticides in the air. And one by one, family members were tested to see if the toxic chemicals were present in their bodies.
Genoveva has banded together with other citizen activists who successfully persuaded their county agricultural commission to adopt a quarter mile buffer zone around schools and residential areas for aerial pesticide spraying.
When asked how her high-school friends greet her work on pesticides, Genoveva grins. "They probably think I'm crazy," she says, then stops smiling. "But this is toxic. And it doesn't go away."