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California high school implements advanced warning system to protect students from pesticide drift

Pesticide drift

(NaturalNews) In rural Kern County, California, parents have been striving to protect their children from pesticide exposure for decades, and their efforts finally appear to be paying off.

The Kern High School District has announced that it will implement an advance notification system that will alert schools close to farms to let them know when pesticides will be applied.

More than 1.4 million schoolchildren in California are exposed to pesticide drift. This occurs when dangerous chemicals are applied to crops and then their poisons are carried to nearby areas by the wind. Overexposure to pesticides has been linked to asthma, neurological development issues and even cancer.

Under the system, growers must notify schools ahead of time when pesticide spraying will take place during regular school hours. If any school activities are planned for a particular day before or after school, it will also apply during those hours.

This will give school administrators a heads-up so that they can call parents and inform them of the spraying. It will also give coaches and teachers a chance to change their plans for outdoor activities to avoid exposure to these toxins.

System a positive step, but more must be done

While any move toward informing people of exposure to potential carcinogens can be construed as a positive one, some people believe that the rule does not go far enough. First of all, it only applies to restricted pesticides that require certification from the state to purchase and handle. Critics also feel that the exact timing of a spray is too subject to variable factors which could make nailing down safe and unsafe times to be outdoors on spray days tricky.

Kern County has already banned farmers from spraying anywhere within a quarter-mile radius of a school campus while classes are in session. Concerned citizens are asking the Kern County Agriculture Commissioner's office to extend this buffer zone to one mile. A total of fifteen counties in the state have such restrictions in place, and they apply to areas ranging from 500 feet to a mile. However, notifying nearby schools in advance of spraying remains entirely voluntary in most cases.

Pesticides found in students' hair

A study carried out last year in Tulare County determined that students were exposed to pesticides being applied as far away as a mile from the school. Hair samples showed traces of dozens of pesticides. One of the pesticides present in the students' hair, Chlorpyrifos, is known to cause developmental issues. Like Kern County, Tulare County only has a buffer zone of a quarter mile for pesticide application that takes place during school hours.

While pesticide exposure in humans is extremely troubling, the new notification system won't do much to protect food and insects from contamination. That's why people who buy health products need to make sure their ingredients do not come from areas where pesticides are sprayed, or they could be doing more harm than good. Buying organic produce is of the utmost importance, and people should always seek products like all-natural organic bee pollen that has been tested for purity.

Despite its shortcomings, the system is certainly a step in the right direction. It is hoped that other parts of the state will adopt similar programs if this proves to be successful.

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