Keep People Out, But They Can’t Keep Pesticides In
(Beyond Pesticides, April 9, 2004) Today’s photo story, which features the home of a family affected by pesticide drift, was sent to us by Billie Karel, program coodinator at the Pesticide Education Project (PESTed) in Raleigh, NC. PESTed is a non-profit organization working in North Carolina since 1986 to minimize human and environmental exposure to toxic pesticides. Reducing pesticide drift has been one of the organizations top priorities over the past several years.
Pesticides, the poisonous chemicals applied to agricultural fields to kill insects, weeds and other pests, regularly move off the fields they’re applied to and on to surrounding homes, yards, businesses and waterways, a problem known as “pesticide drift.” For Edna Williams of Elizabeth City, NC and many other North Carolinians who live, work, drive, or go to school near sprayed fields, the chemical smell and respiratory irritation from pesticide drift are all too familiar during peak agricultural seasons. Pesticide residues from crop dusters drift on to Edna Williams’ Elizabeth City home from the surrounding fields almost daily during the summer months.
More than just an annoyance, exposure to pesticide residues from drift poses serious health risks, especially for children, pregnant women, and other vulnerable populations. One-time exposure to many common pesticides can cause poisoning symptoms like dizziness, skin and eye irritation, and respiratory distress. Exposure to pesticides over time has been linked to increased risk of asthma, reproductive disorders like miscarriage or decreased fertility, birth defects, developmental and learning disorders, and some forms of cancer.
North Carolina has regulations against pesticide drift, but since drift incidents often go un-reported, drift continues to pose a serious threat to the health and safety of NC’s rural residents.
If you live in North Carolina, to get help reporting pesticide drift and protect yourself and your family, call the Drift Watch Hotline toll-free at 1-877-NO-DRIFT. The hotline is operated by PESTed, which offers assistance in English and Spanish, and regardless of the caller’s legal status in the United States. For those outside of North Carolina, call Beyond Pesticides at 202-543-5450.