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New California Law Will Help Curtail Agriculture Drift On To School Property
(from September 17, 2002)

California Governor Gray Davis signed into law a bill that will help protect school-aged children from the potential harm posed by pesticide drift. Assembly Bill 947 (AB 947), allows County Agricultural Commissioners (CAC) the authority to regulate any pesticides/materials within ¼ miles of schools. Currently, restricted materials have special conditions set upon them, while non-restricted materials follow a different set of less restrictive guidelines. AB 947 will now give the CAC discretion to regulate any pesticide application around schools, regardless of the pesticide. AB 947 AB 947 also increases the maximum fine for serious pesticide related violations from the current $1,000 to $5,000. The bill was written by Assemblymember Hanna-Beth Jackson and co-sponsored by the Environmental Defense Center (EDC) and Ventura County Farm Bureau.

"We are pleased that Governor Davis has placed children's health first by passing this common sense bill," said Eric Cárdenas, Director of the Central Coast Environmental Health Project (CCEHP). "We have added one more tool to the pesticide tool box with the passage of AB 947."

AB 947 was first drafted as a result of a pesticide drift incident over a Ventura County elementary school in 1999. A citrus grower had applied Lorsban, a non-restricted pesticide, to his lemon orchard adjacent to Mound Elementary School. When children at the school began feeling sick later that day, officials determined pesticides had drifted and closed the school. Resulting samples later confirmed that pesticides had indeed drifted.

As a result of the incident, Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson, EDC, the Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner and the Ventura County Farm Bureau began discussing potential options for preventing a similar drift event in the future. The result was a policy that would limit pesticide use around sensitive school sites and increase the penalties for violations. Indirectly, the bill also resulted in increased communication between growers, schools, the public and governmental agencies.

AB 947 was first introduced by Hannah-Beth Jackson in 2000, and has been supported by the EDC, American Lung Association, the California Farm Bureau and many other organizations.

California joins seven other states that have taken steps to address pesticide drift on to school property. Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and North Carolina have recognized the importance of controlling drift by restricting pesticide applications in areas neighboring a school that range from 300 feet to 2 ½ miles.

For more information on California's AB 947, contact Eric Cárdenas, Environmental Defense Center, at (805) 963-1622 ext. 111.

For more information on state pesticide laws regarding schools, see Beyond Pesticides' "Schooling of State Pesticide Laws - 2002 Update" or contact Kagan Owens at 202-543-5450.