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Californians stage rally demanding protections from harmful crop chemicals, including one-mile buffer zones around schools and daycares

Pesticide buffer zones

(NaturalNews) A group of residents from California's most heavily farmed regions, has staged a rally in Sacramento, the state capital, demanding protection for children from exposure to dangerous crop chemicals.

After a morning rally in front of the headquarters of CalEPA and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) on July 12, the 150 community members delivered a petition with more than 27,000 signatures, and a letter signed by more than 100 organizations, calling for the adoption of "long-awaited new protections" for children at schools near agricultural operations.

The community members, who hailed mostly from the extensively farmed San Joaquin Valley and Central Coast regions, demanded the DPR's establishment of "full-time one-mile buffer zones around all public schools, licensed day care facilities, school bus stops and known school routes for the most hazardous agricultural pesticides."

The activists are also advocating for the implementation of notification requirements regarding other pesticides, improved air monitoring in schools where exposure is a known issue, and "direct support for farmers to reduce their reliance on the most hazardous and drift-prone pesticides."

'We've waited too long'

"We've waited too long for DPR to unveil their plan to protect children in California from chemicals that are associated with some truly horrific health harming agents that are affecting our children, including cancer, asthma, ADHD, autism, and damaging effects to their neurological and reproductive systems," said public school teacher and activist, Ana Barrera.

Since the 2014 release of a California Department of Public Health (DPH) report titled "Agricultural Pesticide Use Near Public Schools in California," which documented the dangers of pesticide exposure to California children, calls for action have been increasing.

The report detailed the negative health effects of the more than 140 pesticides commonly used near schools, some of which are very dangerous and "drift-prone."

There have been numerous "drift incidents" – among them an example last year in which 20 students and eight staff members at Coachella Valley High School became seriously ill after being exposed to drifting pesticides.

That case resulted in only a $5,000 fine after a six-month investigation.

A report on drift-related exposure found that 82 percent of these incidents involved pesticides that had drifted more than a quarter mile from where they were being used.

The DPH report also revealed that incidents of pesticide exposure involve racial disparities – Latino students are almost twice as likely to attend affected schools than are their white counterparts.

Caroline Farrell, Executive Director of the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, said that pesticide exposure is a "racial and environmental justice issue."

"All of California's children deserve to attend school in safety, regardless of race, place or income."
she said.

The outcry resulting from the DPH report led to the DPR's announcement that it would establish new regulations for schools, and the agency began holding "Listening Sessions" in 2015, in which residents could share their concerns.

Growing body of evidence regarding the effects of pesticides on children

Meanwhile, new evidence has emerged directly linking pesticide exposure to health issues in children.

For instance, a UCLA study was released in February, that suggested that certain pesticides may react synergistically when used in combination, elevating cancer risk more than when used individually.

A UC Berkeley study found that organophosphate pesticides can damage children's lungs in a manner similar to the effects of secondhand smoke.

A report from the Pesticide Action Network compiled a body of evidence that links pesticides to a wide range of illnesses, including "asthma, autism, ADHD, obesity and childhood cancers."

Experts believe that children may be even more susceptible than adults to the effects of pesticide exposure.

The California rally is proof of increasing public awareness of the dangers of pesticides and how they affect our children.

Citizens throughout the rest of the United States and elsewhere should be demanding the same thing – that all children should be protected from exposure to pesticides.






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