SALINAS – An event to draw attention to the continued use of pesticides in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties linked to childhood cancers by a recent report was held in downtown Salinas on Tuesday by the organization Safe Ag Safe Schools.
“We must immediately end the secrecy of pesticides,” said the president of the Pajaro Valley Teachers’ Federation, Nelly Vaquera-Boggs. “We demand the right to know in advance what, when and where harmful pesticides like these that cause childhood cancer will be applied.”
The groups, Safe Ag Safe Schools and the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council, and their supporters are calling on state and local governments to restrict the use of certain pesticides and post web warnings before they and themselves other hazardous pesticides are not used.
Safe Ag Safe Schools is the Monterey Bay regional branch of Californians for pesticide reform, and the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council is the local body of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industry Organizations and a membership organization serving as a coalition of the labor community. in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.
Salinas City Councilor Anthony Rocha pointed to community leaders who have brought this issue to the fore for many years.
“Why do we still have to have these fights in 2021?” Rocha said. “In 2021, we are talking about toxic pesticides that have been banned in other countries that we still use here in our own county.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have heard two major themes, one is to prioritize public health and the second is to prioritize the health and safety of our essential workers. Both go hand in hand with the discussion of pesticide reform, ”said Rocha. “Because the science is crystal clear, we shouldn’t even be using these pesticides. We’re asking for restrictions, but we shouldn’t even be using them in the first place. “
The Safe Ag Safe Schools report states that there are 13 pesticides, of which 11 are used in the Monterey Bay area, linked to childhood cancers and identified in two recent UCLA studies that found these pesticides increase risk of a child developing specific forms of cancer if their mothers lived within 2.5 miles of pesticide application while pregnant.
The studies determined that the risks of developing cancers ranged from an increase of 60% to an increase of 238% and noted that more than 28 countries have banned or not approved 10 of the 13 pesticides.
The first study of 2020, “Prenatal Pesticide Exposure and Childhood Leukemia – A State-wide California Case-Control Study,” examined correlations between pesticide exposure and childhood leukemia, while the second article earlier this year examined the links between pesticides and childhood brain tumors. The residential proximity of pesticide application as a risk factor for central nervous system tumors in children.
According to Safe Ag Safe Schools, the studies are important because they focus on California, provide correlations between individual pesticides and specific childhood cancer subtypes, and make links to in utero exposure.
Current national regulations do not address exposure from applications at such distances and therefore do not take into account the normal drift of pesticides. For example, a policy implemented in 2018 that restricts the use of pesticides around public schools and daycares in California only applies to pesticides used within a quarter-mile of schools.
“I’m here with all these amazing people because I’m scared for my community and scared because we know these are carcinogenic chemicals that we spray near schools, near homes and where people go. work. , said Rocha. “In my district, it’s personal to me because I have a school, McKinnon Elementary School in District 6, which is right in the middle of the fields. There is no 3 km buffer zone and children go there every day.
The Safe Ag Safe Schools report states that while the combined overall trends in area use are decreasing in the Monterey Bay area, the use of some of these pesticides has actually increased and the use of pesticides linked to Childhood cancer has a disproportionate impact on the Latinx areas of Monterey. Bay Area.
The annual average area treated with one or more of the pesticides has exceeded 135,000 acres in recent years, 2012-2018, while the average annual combined use of pesticides related to childhood leukemia has increased by 27% in Monterey County during the last six years, 2012-2018, compared to 1998-2011, the period covered by the two studies.
In Santa Cruz County, 98.5% (168.9 out of 171.4 lbs) of pesticides associated with childhood leukemia and 95.2% (2113.1 out of 2,220.1 lbs) of pesticides linked to childhood brain cancer are enforced in the 95076 zip code alone. The 95076 zip, which includes Watsonville, stands out as one of the few in the county to have a 70.7% Latinx majority population. 60% of all Latinx residents in all Santa Cruz County zip codes live in the 95076 zip, while only 12.6% of the white population live there. Similarly in Monterey County, the application of pesticides linked to childhood cancer is concentrated in the Latinx majority region of the Salinas Valley.
“All of the carcinogenic pesticides in the area are applied in my school district,” said Vaquera-Boggs. “Over the years, I have listened to heartbreaking story after heartbreaking story from teachers in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District about their elementary students who suffered and even died from cancer. And these teachers have long suspected that exposure to pesticides was the reason. Now, these UCLA studies indicate that teachers might be right.
The group calls for greater protection and transparency for residents of the Monterey Bay area, including increased restrictions on pesticides linked to childhood cancer, and 2.5 mile buffer zones around schools, hospitals and other sensitive sites, reflecting the distances pesticides are known to drift.
“Because local control is important and we tell you we don’t want these pesticides sprayed here anymore,” Rocha said.
Advocates cite reform proposals at the federal level and in Europe as examples of health protection frameworks California could adopt. The federal Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act bill would end indefinite delays in the review of pesticides, require an emergency review of pesticides banned in other countries, end the abuse of exemptions for pesticides. emergency, would cancel the use of organophosphates, neonicotinoids and paraquat, and the final state pre-emption of local ordinances on pesticides.
The ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy proposed by the European Union would reduce overall pesticide use and the use of hazardous pesticides by 50% by 2030 and require 25% of agricultural land to be organically produced. ‘by 2030.