Monday, March 01, 2010

EPA may ban pesticide spraying near schools, hospitals to prevent drift of harmful chemicals

The Environmental Protection Agency may soon move to ban pesticide spraying near schools, hospitals and child care centers. The agency is considering the issue after receiving a petition from farm-worker and public-health advocates, Sasha Khoka of National Public Radio reports. Part of the evidence the agency will consider comes from seven "pesticide drift" cases involving school buses in the farm-rich San Joaquin Valley of California over the last year.

"Any incident involving pesticide drift is problematic," Mary Ann Warmerdam, a former California Farm Bureau lobbyist who now heads the state's Department of Pesticide Regulation, told Khoka. "It's illegal, and we have to do better. Having said that, we do have the human condition to contend with, and mistakes do happen." An average of 37 pesticide-drift incidents a year over the past few years have made people sick in California, Khoka reports.

Some officials are concerned an even greater number of cases go unreported. "Everywhere I go to all the little rural communities, everybody has a story to tell about being drifted on by pesticides — that they were outside barbecuing or they were having a birthday party," Teresa de Anda of Californians for Pesticide Reform told Khoka. It's so common, "people don't report it."A 2004 California law requires growers to pay medical bills for pesticide-drift victims who don't have health insurance or workers' compensation. EPA is "also considering new labeling guidelines for chemicals to warn against the dangers of pesticide drift," Khoka reports, and accepting public comment on both proposals this month. (Read more)

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