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Sebastopol Grange Pesticide Report


Sebastopol Grange Pesticide Report

By Emily Marquez

Kids on the Frontline has a focus on children living near agriculture, who are often on the front lines of exposure to pesticides because of where they live and go to school. Because they are still developing, children are especially vulnerable to the effects of pesticide exposure. 

We reviewed a few hundred studies that strongly suggest that the science linking pesticide exposure to children’s health harms is even stronger, especially for neurodevelopmental effects and cancer. There’s also evidence of effects on the respiratory system. Several of the studies we reviewed found links between these health effects and prenatal exposures, or exposures occurring before the children are born. To clarify, prenatal exposures are those occurring before birth and the term pesticides includes herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides – among others.

Cancers: We know from the studies we reviewed that parents who are exposed to pesticides occupationally have children who are at a higher risk of developing cancer. Though we can’t make a direct link based on what we reviewed, Sonoma County has among the highest incidence rates in the state for childhood cancers.

Neurodevelopmental effects: Recently, a study conducted on a group of children and their mothers from the Central Valley found associations between pesticides and developmental disabilities. Women who lived within about a mile of fields where organophosphate pesticides were applied had a 60% increased risk of having children with an autism spectrum disorder. 

Respiratory effects: In 2015, two studies of children from the Salinas valley indicated that prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides was linked to respiratory symptoms typical of asthma and to reduced lung capacity. 

Children get exposed to multiple pesticides in the environment via pesticide drift, residues that stick to dust, and water, in addition the pesticide residues that are found in food. Heavy use of pesticides poses a risk locally and on a larger scale, because they enter our air, the water we drink, and our food. In California, pesticide exposure is an environmental justice issue, with a disproportionate number of Latino children attending school near where pesticides are applied. 

We need policies that better protect children’s health.

The policy asks we’ve been advocating for are prior notification and 1 mile buffer zones.

• Prior notification means that a week before pesticides get applied near schools, the community gets notified.

• A one-mile buffer zone around all schools and day care facilities means that no pesticides of public health concern will be applied in the area, thereby decreasing exposure of children to pesticides in the places where they learn and play.

In order to create these buffer zones, we need policies that support farmers by providing incentives and information as they transition towards healthy, productive, and ecologically based methods of farming.