Pesticide Drift

TERESA AVIÑA won’t open the windows or door of her small apartment, despite a heat that plagues the soul. On the kitchen table, beside two jugs of bottled water, a small, green, electric fan pushes thick air around the room.

“What good is the wind?” she asks, glancing out the window at the breeze that flutters the trees in her front yard. “It’s all poison.”

When Aviña, sixty-four, first moved to Huron, California, from Ensenada, Mexico, eleven years ago, the planes that swooped low in the sky, close to the roof sometimes, fascinated her. She’d run outside to watch them fly to the end of her block, where they would drop pesticides like rain onto the cotton fields below.

“I would go outside and look at them without fear. I didn’t know I could get sick,” says Aviña in Spanish. “Now when I see planes, I run inside and shut the windows. Now I worry about breathing the air. I worry about the kids playing outside.”

Todos los días, every day, Aviña says, she smells pesticides. She blames them for her headaches and dizziness, her nausea, for the cancer and miscarriages that have afflicted her neighbors. Like all of Huron’s seven thousand residents, she lives near el campo, the fields of tomatoes, cotton, lettuce, and melons that ring this cramped town in the heart of California’s San Joaquin Valley, the country’s most productive agricultural area. In 2006 Huron’s Fresno County, one of the valley’s eight counties, produced $4.85 billion worth of vegetables, fruit, and cotton. To foster such incredible fertility, growers sprayed nearly 32 million pounds of pesticides using planes, tractors, and irrigation pipe — enough to fill nearly six Olympic swimming pools.

Not all of these pesticides stay on the fields for which they’re intended; they may lace the air and drift throughout town onto, say, the playground or Aviña’s house. For the most part this isn’t illegal. Federal and state law only requires pesticide applicators to ensure chemicals don’t drift away from fields during or immediately after application. However, according to the California Air Resources Board, most pesticides volatize (turn from liquid to gas), and become prone to drift, within eight to twenty-four hours after application. Data produced by environmental groups, using statistics and risk assessment methodology from the Environmental Protection Agency, suggests that many of these drifting pesticides float into agricultural towns at unsafe concentrations.

In the past several years, Fresno County growers have applied pesticides an average of 273,000 times per year. The county’s Agricultural Commission has twenty-nine staff, each with a host of competing duties, to monitor these operations. Neighboring Tulare County has six people in its pesticide enforcement department to monitor an average of 210,000 applications per year. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation has a toll-free hotline for people to use to report pesticide drift — but it has limited funding to spread the word that such a telephone number exists.

Federal and state agencies have long assured the people who live in these communities that the pesticides pose no threat to their health, that although they may smell chemicals outside their homes, there’s no reason to assume they are in danger. But neither the federal Environmental Protection Agency nor state health agencies have launched any widespread epidemiological studies to investigate whether such statements are actually true. The absence of proof isn’t proof of absence, and many in the San Joaquin Valley see a willful blindness to potential health problems. And so for the first time in memory, the Mexicans and Mexican-Americans who inhabit this slice of the valley have stopped waiting for governments to notice them. In an effort to challenge health agencies to better protect them from pesticides, over the past three years a dozen or so individuals in the towns of Huron, Lindsay, and Grayson have taken air samples from their yards. Though they are organized by Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), a national environmental group, and supported by regional organizations such as Latino Issues Forum and Lideres Campesinas, it’s citizens such as Teresa Aviña — mostly uneducated and poor — who conduct the actual science of air sample collection.

THE HISTORY OF ECONOMIC PROGRESS is generally written with a bold font, leaving the story of the related environmental and human costs to footnotes. In the San Joaquin Valley this tendency is pronounced. Huron, incorporated in 1951, was created to house agricultural workers who would make the desert bloom. Arguably, such places were never intended to be more than a footnote in the story of a stunningly productive agricultural industry. Huron, twelve miles east of Interstate 5, is a forgotten town of dusty, broken streets. There is no high school, no ambulance, no walking postman, and no grocery store of significant size. A main road into town floods almost annually with heavy rains, but the bridge promised by politicians for nearly twenty years has yet to be built. The city manager lives in Fresno, an hour away. What Huron does have is high rates of teenage pregnancy, domestic violence, drug use, and gangs. Nearly everyone here works in the fields and speaks Spanish. Locals estimate at least 70 percent of residents are undocumented, and of those who do have papers, many aren’t citizens. Only around eight hundred people are registered to vote.

Across town from Teresa Aviña’s house, on a block that ends where tomato fields begin, live Siboney Cruz, her mother Frances Arguis, and Cruz’s five children. Visitors to their home are met by plaster that peels off the exterior wall, billowing pink curtains, and the persistent whine of a generator that powers an odd, capital I-shaped mechanical contraption. Situated just to the right of the front door, beneath an open bedroom window, this two-foot-tall device is a Drift Catcher. While her kids, who range in age from four to eleven, all big brown eyes and shy smiles, play hide and seek, Cruz, twenty-seven, takes a clipboard outside to check the machine.

Powered by the generator, the vacuum cleaner–like mechanism sucks air into two glass tubes, each about the size of a cigarette. Airborne pesticides adhere to an absorbent resin filter that PANNA scientists will analyze at a lab at the University of California, Berkeley. Every day for two weeks, Cruz changes the tubes, noting temperature, wind direction, and any strong smells. Today the wind stirs a nearby cherry tree, and a sharp smell slices the air.

“I get headaches sometimes when I smell this, or I feel sort of frustrated all day,” says Cruz. Her round face is pock-marked and scarred, the result of a terrible rash she got several years ago after accidentally being sprayed by pesticides while she worked in the tomato fields. “We go to meetings and public hearings [about pesticide drift], but they don’t actually do anything. If [the government] would care about the community, they would do something about it.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t created any federal standards for acceptable airborne pesticide exposure levels for those who live or work near sprayed fields. Dale Kemery, an EPA spokesperson based in Washington DC, explained in an e-mail that “most available monitoring data” suggests that exposure to airborne pesticides is far less of a health concern than drinking or eating these chemicals. He fails to mention that the EPA has only reviewed studies of volatilized fumigants — just five pesticides — to determine whether they may impact neighbors’ health. The vast majority of active ingredients in pesticides — nearly a thousand chemicals — have not been similarly assessed. On the EPA website that describes how people may be exposed to pesticides, no mention is made of drift from nearby fields.

State and county government officials also downplay the potential for health impacts. “Everything we do, whether it’s cattle with a methane gas problem or pesticides on our crops, everything’s polluting something,” says Karen Francone, deputy agricultural commissioner of Fresno County. “What’s our tolerance of it? I’m not here to answer that question. People wearing perfume really bugs me. The person who wears the perfume thinks it smells great. I might say, well, I’ll tolerate pesticides because I know it’s applied to a commodity so I don’t have worms in my fruit. It comes down to what’s a person’s tolerance.”

Says Karl Tupper, a San Francisco–based PANNA scientist: “To acknowledge there’s a problem would mean doing something about it, and doing something about it will be tough. It’s easier to assume that bystanders simply aren’t exposed to pesticides.”

In the absence of EPA analysis, PANNA has set out to create its own safety standards. Using EPA data and methodology, Susan Kegley, a former Berkeley professor of chemistry and a PANNA senior scientist, calculated how much of any pesticide a child can inhale without getting sick. The air samples that people have taken over the past several years in both Huron, where cotton and other row crops are grown, and Lindsay, a town ringed by thick groves of orange trees, showed daily evidence of exposure to chlorpyrifos and naled, both organophosphate pesticides, during the several-week-long sample period. Approximately 28 percent of the time, air samples in Lindsay were above “acceptable” exposure levels for a one-year-old child.

Infant and prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides such as chlorpyrifos leads to significant mental and developmental delays, according to recent studies published in Environmental Health Perspectives and Pediatrics. In one 1998 study, four-to-five-year-old children in Mexico who had been exposed to pesticides suffered significant lags in development — they had more trouble catching a ball, drawing pictures of people, or performing simple tasks involving memory and neuromuscular skills. Other studies link pesticide exposure to autism, infertility, neurological disorders, cancer, and birth defects.

Despite the steady drumbeat of government and industry assurances that such findings are no cause for worry, these reports do concern Drift Catcher operator Siboney Cruz and her mother, Frances Arguis. Most days, the abandoned field behind their house, once a landing strip for crop-dusting planes, becomes a makeshift playground where the kids play tag, duck-duck-goose and hide-and-seek. One of her boys, Adam, nine, has asthma, and when growers spray his wheezing kicks up. In fact, 30 percent of children in Fresno County have asthma, more than double the statewide rate, according to a 2005 survey conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles. “Every time you turn around, an unbelievable environmental justice issue slaps you in the face,” says Tracey Brieger, agricultural policy coordinator for Californians for Pesticide Reform, a nonprofit group based in San Francisco. “It feels like the valley is the center of the modern civil rights movement in the country.”

According to a 2003 study by Californians for Pesticide Reform, hundreds of thousands of Californians live in places where they’re exposed to pesticides that drift away from farms. Throughout the country, suburban development is consuming agricultural areas, creating communities on the edge of farmland, faster than at any time in history. “Very nice, white, middle-class people will find themselves in this same situation,” says Shelley Davis, executive director of the Farmworker Justice Fund, based in Washington DC. “We have this attitude that who cares about them. They’re brown and they’re poor. But this does not stay in the valley. You can’t throw this shit away; it doesn’t go away. DDT hasn’t been used since 1972 but it persists, it shows up in breast milk of women who weren’t even born in 1972. If you don’t want this to happen to you, you’d better stop it now.”

LUIS MEDELLIN LIVES IN LINDSAY, another poor community comprised almost entirely of immigrants, about an hour east of Huron in neighboring Tulare County. In the summer of 2006, he and eleven others from Lindsay volunteered to collect their urine every day for two weeks so that PANNA could test for the presence of chlorpyrifos in their bodies. Medellin, twenty-two, works as a dishwasher in a restaurant. He lives in a trailer park surrounded by orange trees, but figured he was young and strong and unlikely to have a toxic chemical in his bloodstream.

Yet Medellin had 7 micrograms of chlorpyrifos per liter of urine, or 4.5 times the amount of the average American adult. He fell within range, just barely, of the EPA’s acceptable level for healthy adults (7.9 micrograms/liter). One woman, a former farmworker who no longer works in the fields, had levels twice that. Only two of the study participants worked in the fields during sampling, but eleven of the twelve people tested had levels above the level that EPA data and PANNA analysis indicate would be an acceptable daily exposure for pregnant and nursing women (1.5 micrograms/liter).

“I was mad when I heard about the levels,” says Medellin as we walk the orange grove’s long, narrow pathways between trees. Mornings after they’ve been sprayed, he says, the leaves look like they’ve been sprinkled with flour. “I want to have kids and not have serious health problems. Will this chemical stay in my body and make some damage in the future? Will it stay in my body long enough to cause cancer?”

With a local immigrant advocacy organization called El Quinto Sol de América, and a coalition of regional groups, Medellin and others are working to shield residents from pesticides. For the past three years they’ve pushed for buffer zones between farmland and schools and homes, and for regulations requiring growers to notify schools, hospitals, and residents before they spray nearby. Activists have circulated petitions, held meetings with the Tulare agriculture commissioner and local school boards, and staged protests to attract media attention. They’ve had some success: beginning in December 2007, growers in Tulare County no longer may apply the most dangerous pesticides by plane within a quarter mile of schools, residential areas, and occupied labor camps. This is the first time a county has used a 2001 state law that permits the creation of buffer zones. Though activists hailed the change, it’s far from everything they want. The law only applies to restricted pesticides that require an application permit. Chlorpyrifos, for example, isn’t on that list in California.

The accomplishments of the valley residents and the nonprofits that support them may seem minor. But there’s a significant, albeit slight, shift in the air. Gary Kunkel, agricultural commissioner for Tulare County, credits the creation of the buffer zones to numerous talks he’s had with the activist coalition, and he says that the dynamic between government and local, mostly Latino communities is changing. “I, for one, ten years ago didn’t know the names of all these groups, and now I do. And I think that’s a very positive thing. They’re becoming increasingly confident and they’re getting somewhere,” says Kunkel, ruddy and mustached, as he sits at the end of the long, wooden conference table. “They’re having an impact and will have an impact on how we do business here.”

For this trend, Gustavo Aguirre, a former farmworker from Mexico who is leading the buffer zone campaign for the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, credits those like Cruz, Aviña, and Medellin. “It’s been successful because of the participation of people in the study. The Drift Catcher and the biomonitoring has a huge impact. One of the reasons the county ag commission can’t say they don’t like it is because they’re not monitoring the pesticides. We’re doing their homework for them,” says Aguirre. “We are trying to organize rural communities to raise their voices and I think that’s happening. I believe people have capacity without limits.”

IF HISTORY IS ANY INDICATOR, the use of Drift Catchers and activism to pull people like Teresa Aviña and Luis Medellin up out of society’s margins will take a long time. Even so, the fact that anyone is trying to do something, anything really, not only for themselves but for all San Joaquin Valley residents, carries its own heft.

On a day when the recently denuded cotton fields across the street from the elementary school are a brown sea of dust, and thick air obscures the mountains to the west, the playground at Huron Elementary is a mill of laughter and shrieking. It’s the first day of school after summer break. As a bell rings to pull these small, mostly brown children away from their swings and tag games, Noella Saldaña, a veteran kindergarten teacher, sighs with relief at the momentary pause. Though she grew up in New Hampshire in a family of French Canadians, Saldaña has lived and taught in Huron for over twenty years. She has spoken Spanish for so long that she forgets how to say certain words, like sidewalk, in English. A woman who speaks in galloping straight lines, Saldaña talks with candor about how the Drift Catchers penetrate a pervasive indifference.

“This community, unfortunately, is a bit apathetic,” she says, walking across the now quiet playground. “People ask me why I’m living in this community when you know that the rules get bent for some people and not for others, when you’re getting sprayed with pesticides. But we’ve been here so long. These people are my friends.”

As the midday sun bakes the concrete slab of the playground, Saldaña pauses to consider what the Drift Catchers might mean for this town, for people like Teresa Aviña who are afraid to open their windows. She knits her brow and stares off toward the nearby fields. “It’s a good start, it’s a really good start because nothing’s ever happened before.”

Rebecca Clarren writes about environmental and labor issues for various magazines such as Fortune and High Country News. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Photographer Christopher LaMarca recently published his first book, Defenders: The Confrontational American Landscape. He lives in New York City.


  1. Rebecca Clarren has truly captured how these often invisible Central Valley communities are confronting persistent pesticide exposure from industrialized agricultural. Her story depicts the remarkable courage of farmworker families who’ve begun to demand their rights to a healthier environment. The article also portrays accurately the exemplary collaboration between new grassroots activists and environmental justice organizations to enable residents to gather their own scientific data with the pesticide Drift Catcher. We must add that it was at the urging of Commonweal’s Sharyle Patton that urine samples are also being collected from residents, showing the same pesticides present at levels of concern in residents’ bodies. Under California’s new biomonitoring law, we expect to see growing evidence that pesticide drift is intolerable for all of us. Thank you for telling this story, and to Commonweal for expanding the picture.

    Steve Scholl-Buckwald, Managing Director, Pesticide Action Network

  2. Thank you for this important article. I wanted to also let people know about similar work being done by another member of Commonweal, Steve Lerner.

    He is collecting stories called “Chemical Contamination in Fenceline Communities” which are available online at:

    Steve Lerner is research director at Commonweal and is currently working on a book, tentatively entitled “Fenceline Communities: The Front Lines of Toxic Chemical Exposure in the U.S.” It is a follow-up to his earlier book, called “Diamond: A Struggle for Environmental Justice in Louisiana’s Chemical Corridor,” which provides case study reports on 11 low income and minority communities around the country dealing with intense pollution from adjacent heavy industries and military bases.

  3. Big credit to Pesticide Action Network-North America for leading on this issue. PANNA’s work is a great example of the effectiveness and importance of grassroots action.

    Orion Grassroots Network

    Providing services and support to grassroots groups working for people and planet.

  4. Thank you for publishing this story. I’ve heard similar stories many times before. We need to keep telling these stories until we have an acceptable change in policy. Until that time I simply buy organic fruit and vegi’s. The last thing I want to support are farms and farmers that pollute our air and water and show no concern for the folks living near the farms and more importantly the farm workers in the field.

  5. It is one thing to feel helpless. Its another thing when you know it hits other people in other lands. But, desperation leads to prayer and prayer leads to faith. I hope your paper cultivates faith by featuring the action of others combatting the same scourge of toxic spray.

    The more people praying in action… the sooner we rid ourselves of helplessness. The stronger the faith in the justness of our struggles, the more people find their voice.

    Read about the issues in the Philippines

    More power to the people!!!

    see sample article below:

    The Endosulfan Toxic Cargo Poses a Serious Threat to Health and Environment
    Dr. Romeo F. Quijano
    Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology
    College of Medicine, University of the Philippines Manila

    The toxic cargo, endosulfan, still lying inside the ill-fated MV Princess of the Stars, poses a very serious threat to health and environment. The huge amount involved (10 metric tons) and its very high toxicity potential make it a veritable �time bomb�. Responsible government agencies should not trivialize the serious danger we are faced with. News reports stating that an official of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority �allayed fears the hundreds of drums containing endosulfan would cause massive marine pollution�, and that �there would only be a very slight amount of endosulfan that would be dissolved in water� are false and grossly misleading. Endosulfan is a marine pollutant. In fact, its bill of lading carries the UN designated label �marine pollutant� and �toxic�, with the skull and crossbones warning pictogram.

    Endosulfan is extremely toxic to aquatic life and is very highly toxic to other organisms, including humans. A massive global environmental pollution would occur if the 10 tons of endosulfan were released into the seawater. The �slight amount� that would be dissolved in water would be sufficient to kill fish and to cause adverse health effects in animals and humans. While the solubility of endosulfan in water is only 0.22-0.33 mg/L(milligrams per liter), this is already about 2,500X the concentration levels that would kill fish (0.05-0.13 ug/L), about 800X the concentration that is toxic to the sperm and that would increase the risk of breast cancer (.407 ug/L). This concentration is also enough to poison an unprotected person who might be immersed in contaminated seawater for a few minutes. Furthermore, once the packaging of endosulfan is breached, the released endosulfan will find its way into the surface and will be subsequently dispersed over a very wide area of sea water, potentially stretching out to thousands of kilometers from the point of release. Substantial amounts will be taken up and accumulated by marine organisms and lipophilic organic aggregates in seawater which will eventually find their way into nearby coastal areas and terrestrial communities. A significant amount of the released endosulfan will volatilize and will be further transported by air currents over long distances and will be deposited in different parts of the globe. Ten metric tons of endosulfan is no small addition to the global burden of toxicants already creating much havoc on health and environment.

    Contrary to government pronouncements, leakage of endosulfan from its containers from the sunken MV Princess is likely. The bill of lading indicated that the outer packaging material used was fibreboard, with polyethylene plastic as the immediate packaging material for the endosulfan. Fibreboard material, even if moisture resistant, will eventually give way after prolonged immersion in seawater. Once the fibreboard packaging is breached, the inner polyethylene bags will not be able to contain the chemical for long and endosulfan will be discharged into the surrounding seawater and beyond. The scenario is even worse if another typhoon visits the area. Considering that the endosulfan in the sunken ship amounts to 10 tons and considering that endosulfan is a persistent organic pollutant, the marine pollution that would occur will be a global nightmare. The fact that the seawater samples taken from the immediate vicinity of the toxic cargo turned out to be negative so far is not very reassuring. In the first place, the sensitivity of the equipment measuring the samples is limited. According to a senior official in charge of the laboratory, their equipment can only detect a concentration equal to or greater than 0.1mg/L. A slow release of the toxic cargo resulting to low-level but chronically toxic seawater concentrations may not be detected. Secondly, negative results do not, in any way, indicate that the toxic cargo will not leak in the immediate future. The observation that there has been no fish kills in the vicinity of the sunken ship so far is also not reassuring for the same reasons: the effects of sub-lethal but toxic concentrations are not detected and the absence of fish kills so far does not indicate that there will be no fish kills in the near future. Indeed the endosulfan toxic cargo is a �ticking time bomb�.

    Endosulfan residues in food and drinking water are already widespread globally and constitute a serious threat to human health. There is already significant levels of contamination of human tissues, including breastmilk, adipose tissue, placental tissue and umbilical cord blood. The unborn child is exposed, and then re-exposed on birth through breast milk�both exposures taking place at critical periods of development where endosulfan is known to have profound life-long adverse effects. There are many cases of reported acute poisonings, occurring mostly in developing countries, resulting oftentmes in deaths or severe disability. Effects in chronically exposed survivors include congenital deformities, delayed male sexual maturity, female hormonal disorders, congenital mental retardation, cerebral palsy and other neurologic disorders, immune system disease, cancers, disorders of the kidney, liver, skin and other organs, and many other diseases.

    Endosulfan is extremely toxic to fish and has caused massive fish kills. It is also highly toxic to all other aquatic organisms and demonstrates a range of chronic effects, including genotoxicity, reproductive and developmental effects. Toxicity is increased by increased temperatures: more problems can be expected with global warming.

    It is also highly toxic to birds, bees, earthworms, beneficial insects and microorganisms.

    Environmental contamination is widespread and has been found in soil, ground and surface waters, marine sediments, air, rainfall, snow and ice pack, grasses and tree bark all over the world�-from areas in which it is still in use to high remote mountain lakes and the Arctic and Antarctic regions. In the Philippines, endosulfan residues have been found in food, surface and ground water, sediments, soil, watershed areas and air. In fact, in the Global Air Pollutants Survey done recently, Philippines was among those with the highest levels of contamination for Persistent Organic Pollutants, including endosulfan. Endosulfan is persistent in the environment and biomagnifies in terrestrial food chains.

    Given the above facts, any additional release of endosulfan into the environment, more so from the 10 tons of 94% pure endosulfan in the sunken MV Princess, can only mean disaster.

    Questions must then be asked why we (and the entire global community) are in this predicament.

    Why is endosulfan still allowed to be used by Del Monte and Dole until now despite the fact that endosulfan has been banned nationally in 1994?

    Endosulfan was strongly recommended to be banned completely by the FPA’s technical experts as far back as 20 years ago. The FPA eventually banned Endosulfan 35% in 1994. Del Monte and Dole were granted a phase-out period upon their request with certain conditions, including monitoring of their workers for chromosomal abnormalities. The FPA and Del Monte claim the results of the monitoring were all �normal� when in fact there were significant abnormalities, and anomalies, in the monitoring. The phase-out period was extended until 2002. The senior medical toxicologist in the Pesticide Technical Advisory Committee (PTAC) refused to agree to further extension after that. The FPA, nevertheless, on their own and over the objections of the senior medical toxicologist, decided to allow Del Monte and Dole to use endosulfan until December, 2008. The FPA never convened the PTAC after 2002. Curiously, at that time, the owner of Del Monte was a high ranking government official, a Cabinet Secretary.

    Why was Del Monte allowed to import 10 tons of pure endosulfan, an amount far exceeding the requirements until the end of 2008 ?

    Del Monte’s permit to use endosulfan is due to expire on Dec. 31, 2008.

    Clearly, Del Monte was confident that it will get another extension to use endosulfan from the FPA even before any formal deliberations could occur on the issue. However, why did Del Monte import such a huge amount of endosulfan, way above their expected requirements for the year? Was it because they were hoarding endsulfan, anticipating that the supply of endosulfan will be further tightened due to the increasing international pressure for global banning?

    Why was Sulpicio Lines allowed by government authorities to load endosulfan in a passenger ship and why did Del Monte and Sulpicio Lines load the toxic cargo in that ill-fated ship, apparently with no sufficient safeguards and information about the toxic cargo?

    The strict guidelines stipulated by the United Nations Convention on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) code, to which the Philippines had committed to adhere to, were clearly violated by all the parties. The government agencies concerned, the shipping company, and the owner of the cargo must be held accountable for seriously jeopardizing people’s health and the environment by such violations of internationally agreed guidelines.

    Endosulfan belongs to the group of highly toxic chemicals called persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and has been formally proposed by the European Union to be included in the official list of chemicals for global elimination under the Stockholm Convention, which the Philippines has already ratified. In fact, the Philippine government had proposed in 1996 that endosulfan be included in the initial list of POPs under the said treaty but due to the intervention of vested interests, regulatory authorities allowed endosulfan to be used almost indefinitely in this country.

    There is an urgent need to address the immediate danger that the toxic endosulfan cargo poses on the entire planet. Preventive and remedial measures should not be dependent on the willingness of the accountable companies to pay. The resources of the government and international bodies should be mobilized while undertaking measures to ensure the accountability of those companies involved. There should be an effective participation of people�s organizations in the task force addressing this issue. People�s welfare is in serious jeopardy.

    Dr. Romeo F. Quijano
    Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology
    College of Medicine, University of the Philippines Manila

    Reply to all


  6. Long a resident of Bakerfield (kern CO.)and friends with others who worked in the farm service business, it is clear that pesticide drift has been going on for a very long time. The smell was heavy way back in the 70’s on the west side. MacFarland, Ca., mostly Latino, had 7 children in _one block_ die from the same kind of cancer during the early 90’s and the dr. who did post-mortem found incredibly high amounts of pesticide residue in their bodies. A lawsuit got some recompense for the families but no amount of money can fill in a space left in such tight families as these. The overwhelming disregard corporations have for “people” these days, I can see fierce stuggles ahead; but that the only thing that will move them. “Power has never conceded anything without a struggle. It never has and never will. Those who want results without struggle want crops without working the earth.” -Frederick Douglass

  7. how can I get one of these drift catchers. I will be moving into an area which is still predominantly farm land. Should I be concerned for such pesticide drifts in Illinois?

  8. I consider that it is necessary to fertilize the ground that it yielded fruits. Because all pesticides are a chemistry which badly influences an organism of the person. It is necessary to apply special fertilizers and then pesticides will be not necessary to the ground. In the world and so it is a lot of chemical plants, factories, and we also eat pesticides.

  9. People will never get a healthier environment. Not before authorities do something radical to change ongoing nature destruction.

  10. Am also interested in the drift catchers. Please indicate where they might be available. Drift is becoming more obvious in this area and affecting vegetation and trees. Perhaps the slow response to drift problems could be that those responsible for monitoring and regulating pesticide drift are the same people who benefit greatly from the largess of the chemical producing companies. A definite conflict of interest.

  11. Hi Rita,

    Sorry to hear that drift is becoming more and more obvious — clearly the policies in place, as well as enforcement of them, are not enough to protect our communities.

    I work at Pesticide Action Network, the maker of the Drift Catcher. Feel free to give me a ring at 415-625-9072 if you would like to chat more about Drift Catchers, potential opportunities for using them, and the rest of our Grassroots Science program.


  12. I worked for the Huron Police Department for 11 years, serving 9 months as the agency’s Interim Police Chief.

    I have known Richard Street for many years and have contributed to some of his articles about Huron with photos, documents and testimony.

    In 2010, I turned the city over to the Fresno County Grand Jury for misappropriation of Federal funds, illegal (fictitious) internal loans to avoid takeaways of State funds and the unexplained disappearance of over $175,000 in narcotic’s forfeiture funds.

    While that investigation is currently ongoing, don’t expect the farm worker to benefit from its outcome. The political corruption in Huron is only the tip of the iceberg.

    The city has a long history of exploitation of the farm worker. In 2010, I discovered several families living in the back yard of a house on Cherry Street (a section of the city called Tortilla Flats) in portable tool sheds. The sheds had no water or sanitation and exposed wiring was visible on the home-made electrical connections to the main house on the property.

    The city would not allow me to take action, under city ordinances, to eject the families from those sub-human dwellings. This is matter of official record in my reports and this is only one such event where the city either failed or refused to take action to raise the standard of farm worker housing, because they didn’t want to upset business and home owners who were members of the voting community.

    On more than one occasion, I called CPS out to take protective custody of children who were living in filthy, sub-human environments. One such case took place at the Contreras farm Labor Camp in 2009. The next day, we found the children back in the apartment, still using only a 5 gallon bucket as a toilet and still plagued by roach infestation.

    When I complained to a CPS supervisor about the incident, I was told that the general condition of housing in Huron lowered the acceptable standard of living to a level that was lower than one would find in a larger community.

    Basically, since everyone had roaches and improper sanitation, it was impossible to raise the living standard.

    Hotels and farm labor camps, owned by local business persons, are exempt from enforcement because of their position within the community. The Huron Hotel is one example. It would simply be condemned in any other community in California, but continues to operate despite numerous Huron Police reports finding it in violation of the uniform fire code and basic standards of human habitation; again this was well documented in a number of my reports and reports written by my code enforcement officers.

    Landlords have removed people’s doors, held their personal property for ransom and even threatened renters with deportation. Repeatedly, we have arrested local businessmen for illegal eveictions, only to have the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office fail to file charges stating their caseload was too heavy to deal with such trivial maters.

    Nothing in Huron is going to change for the farm worker until the tide of city government begins to change. The farm workers cannot vote, and therefore, their voices are unheard by city officials.

    Something must be done to raise the living standard in this community.

  13. Has Andrew Zeisel, re:2008 e-mail, received information on the pesticide drift catcher? I have inquired as to where they might be purchased. Please respond, spring planting is only weeks away. Thanks.

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