Help Protect Children From Toxic Pesticides
Luis Medellin and his three little sisters, aged 5, 9 and 12, live in the middle of an orange grove in Lindsay, CA–a small farming town in the Central Valley. During the growing season, Luis and his sisters are awakened several times a week by the sickly smell of nighttime pesticide spraying. What follows is worse: searing headaches, nausea, vomiting.
The Medellin family’s story is not unique. From apple orchards in Washington to potato fields in Florida, drifting poisonous pesticides plague the people who live nearby–posing a particular risk to the young children of the nation’s farm workers, many of whom live in industry housing at the field’s edge.
This situation also often exists in schools in agricultural areas where it’s not uncommom to have a school next to a field. According to a November 7 article in the Salinas Californian, "When schools use pesticides on campus, they post a warning a day before. But when acres of farmland next to classrooms are sprayed with industrial-grade chemicals, often no sign goes up."
Gonzales resident Aurora Valdez said she’s fearful pesticides sprayed near Gonzales High School, where her kids attend classes, will harm her teenage sons. She said she often prays to the Virgin of Guadalupe to keep her sons from experiencing what she said her husband, Francisco, went through 12 years ago after being exposed to pesticides. "I worry constantly about pesticides," Valdez said.
That’s why the UFW and a coalition of environmental groups petitioned the government to set safety standards protecting children who grow up near farms from the harmful effects of pesticide drift–the toxic spray or vapor that travels from treated fields. We’re also asking officials to immediately adopt no-spray buffer zones around homes, schools, parks and daycare centers for the most dangerous and drift-prone pesticides.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has taken the first step in addressing this problem–opening up the petition for public comment. It’s a promising sign. The agency’s leadership needs to hear that you think they’re on the right track. Because they’ll surely be getting an earful from the pesticide industry telling them to keep the status quo. In fact, industry interests like Monsanto and CropLife have already started weighing in. If we want EPA to do the right thing and put immediate pesticide buffers in place around homes, schools, daycare centers and playgrounds, we need to push back. Please help.
In the past, the EPA has not made this issue a priority–ignoring a law Congress passed that requires the agency to protect children from all exposures to pesticide, including pesticide drift. The agency is already three years overdue in setting safety standards that protect children from drift. But there is new hope with the Obama administration. Will you please add your voice to those calling for a change?