Groups Says Pesticide Drift a Growing Concern
July 18, 2006 -- They're a vital part of the valley's ag industry, but one group says pesticides are threatening too many valley families, and it has a new tool to prove it.
In 2003, farms in Tulare County used 12 million pounds of pesticides.
Some people in Lindsay say they always feared the pesticides sprayed on the orchards were bad for their health. Now, they say they have proof.
20-year-old Luis Medellin says pesticides from nearby orange groves are making his family sick. He says chemicals drift into their trailer park through their air conditioner and he's woken up to headaches and vomiting more than once.
"The air that the air conditioner is absorbing, it shoots it into the house and it's just like you were in the orchard, just walking around smelling the pesticides," said Luis.
Medellin is just one of a handful of Lindsay residents using a new air monitoring device called a drift catcher to measure pesticide levels near their homes.
Members of the Pesticide Action Network say chemicals from local orchards are reaching dangerous levels near Lindsay's schools and homes.
In a recent survey, they measured at least 400 drift incidents in the Lindsay area.
"Pesticides are the number four contributor to ozone, to asthma, causing ozone in the valley. This one particular pesticide alone, again among many many pesticides, is responsible for about 9% of pesticide related ozone," said Dr. Margaret Reeves, from the Pesticide Action Network.
Members of the community are now demanding change, asking growers to put pesticide buffer zones between schools and homes, or farm organically.
Joel Nelsen, with California Citrus Mutual, says industry experts aren't buying into the latest report. He says growers already spray less near residential areas and are following government standards.
"They put some arbitrary standards in there that is not accepted by any reputable scientific body or government across this nation," said Nelsen.
Still, local groups say their measuring tools are accurate and they plan on using them for as long as they're needed.
Local ag leaders are planning to study test results from the drift catchers. They say if needed, they'll change where they spray their pesticides.
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