Safe Routes Partnership and Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability (Leadership Counsel) commented on the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR)’s policy for pesticide application near schools. DPR’s new draft regulation would require that agriculture growers notify schools and day care centers when companies plan to spray pesticides in the area and prohibit the application during schools site sessions. The policy also would create 1/4 mile protection zone during school hours and also includes provisions on application methods.
For many communities who live near agriculture hubs, pesticide usage is a major public health concern. Earlier this year, UCLA conducted a study of the effects of pesticide and concluded that exposure can lead to serious health issues including forms of cancer. Adequate protection, or “buffer” zones is critical to ensure the safety of the communities who live near grower facilities.
For example, the agriculture industry plays a major role as an economic stimulator for Coachella Valley. Eastern Coachella Valley residents face many health disparities as a result of living in proximity to agriculture fields. In February 2016, the agriculture commissioner fined a local grower $5,000 as a result of an investigation into cases of exposure from students of Coachella Valley High School. Students and staff reported many health problems and the school was even closed during that period of time. Furthermore, CalEnviroScreen data shows the census tract of Coachella Valley high school has a troubling pesticide score of 96. Stricter policy restrictions from the statewide level are necessary to address local concerns, such as in the case of Coachella Valley High School.
Pesticide residual drift is both an environmental justice and active transportation hazard. Many of Coachella Valley students depend on active transportation methods such as walking and biking in order to get school. DPR’s current proposal calls for 1/4 buffer zone for application with restrictions enforced during schools hours. The proposed regulation does not adequately or effectively address distances for students who walk and bike to school nor does it address community/school events after hours. Instead, the Partnership and Leadership Counsel call for a 1-mile buffer zone that is enforced 24 hours a day. Californians for Pesticide Reform also submitted a coalition letter with similar policy recommendations. For more information on our policy recommendations, please access our letter here.
Colorlines also released commentary on the issue, which can be found here. You can read more about the DPR’s policy on their website located here including a highlighted fact sheet. DPR conducted three public workshops in Oxnard, Tulare and Salinas during the month of December. Comments for the draft regulations ended Friday, December 9th, 2016.