NPR: Pesticide Drift Plaguing Rural Communities

Five days left to tell EPA to protect rural kids from pesticides

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In case you missed it, NPR had a very good piece Sunday on Earthjustice’s efforts to protect rural children from "pesticide drift"—the toxic spray or vapor that travels from pesticide-treated fields and into nearby communities.

Each year, nearly a billion pounds of pesticides are sprayed into fields and orchards around the country. And as our partner Teresa de Anda with Californians for Pesticide Reform told the NPR reporter, just about everyone in these agricultural areas has a story to tell about unnerving encounters with pesticides.

The NPR reporter talked with two children who were drenched in pesticides while waiting for the school bus in their San Joaquin Valley community. It was one of seven pesticide drift incidents involving school buses reported last year in this intensely agricultural area. That there was not one, but seven, oddly similar incidents in this region gives you some sense of just how commonplace they have become.

There are young children being poisoned on the playground, in their homes. Our friends at MomsRising recount the story of a young girl poisoned after an outdoor gym class and then ten days later at a track meet.

In the midst of these heartbreaking stories there is reason to hope.

In October, Earthjustice petitioned EPA asking the agency to protect children from pesticide drift and impose immediate no-spray buffer zones around homes, schools, parks and daycare centers for the most dangerous pesticides. We’ve gotten EPA’s attention and now the agency is accepting public comments on our petition. But we’ve only got five days left to make our voices heard and let EPA know that they need to act. And fast. If you haven’t already weighed in, now is the time to write EPA. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want another growing season to pass with rural kids paying the price for our country’s system of industrial agriculture.

(The above photo is courtesy of Tracy Perkins’ 25 Stories From the Central Valley, a multi-media exhibit sponsored by the Environmental Justice Project at UC Davis’ John Muir Institute of the Environment. It’s brimming with inspiring stories of grassroots activists working to improve environmental conditions in California’s Central Valley. Check it out here.)

From 2007–2018, Kathleen partnered with clean energy coalitions and grassroots organizations, empowered communities to fight against fracking, and worked with the Policy & Legislation team to have their messages heard by legislators.