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Daily News Blog

12
May

California Governor Emphasizes Pesticide Enforcement During Coronavirus Outbreak

(Beyond Pesticides, May 12, 2020) California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) is issuing new enforcement guidelines intended to protect children and residents from toxic pesticides during the Covid-19 pandemic. With schoolchildren spending their time at home while in quarantine, many, particularly those in agricultural communities, are at increased risk of pesticide exposure. “During this public health crisis, it is important to ensure the strict enforcement and oversight of regulations that protect children from pesticide exposure,” Governor Newsom wrote in a letter to the state Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA).

While much of the guidance simply reinforces current legal requirements, it places an emphasis on strict enforcement. County Agricultural Commissioners (CACs), the state’s primary enforcement officers for pesticide laws, must “strictly enforce all applicable health protections around homes and schools” during the pandemic, seven days a week. Further, it stresses that pesticide applications “are expressly prohibited,” when there is, “reasonable possibility of contamination of the bodies or clothing of persons not involved in the application.” The state will prioritize the investigation of any violations made in residential areas.

The state will also “take a strict approach to assessing penalties.” Violations of pesticide law that occur near homes or schools during coronavirus quarantine will be considered “Class A” violations and will carry fines at the highest level. To wit, CACs are instructed to “charge a separate violation for each person with an acute illness from pesticide exposure caused by the violation.”  These directions could see violators assessed with fines up to $5,000 per person per incident.

Because many schools will continue to stay open for meals and student take-home lessons, the guidance does not waive recent state requirements instituted to require buffers for highly toxic pesticide use near schools sites. “It remains critical for the state to protect children and families from pesticide exposure including through the strong protections California has in place for school sites,” the Governor wrote. In addition to maintaining the school site provisions, the state is encouraging applicators to extend prior notification for all pesticide use near homes.

Lastly, California regulators are encouraging residents to make use of the state’s free App, which allows for anonymous reporting of pesticide incidents. This tool is particularly helpful for farmworkers and those in the agricultural industry, as it is illegal to be fired after reporting a pesticide incident through the App.

Environmental groups are applauding the move as a step in the right direction. Enforcement during this crisis is critical to the protection of children and those with pre-existing immune or respiratory ailments that may be exacerbated by pesticide exposure, and make them more susceptible to the impacts of the virus.

The Governor can go further to protect the health of children, farmworkers, and residents throughout the state. By ordering a halt to the use of cosmetic lawn care pesticides, California would prevent the need for voluntary notification and reduce pressure on enforcement activities. Cosmetic use is unnecessary and non-essential; applications near homes and neighboring properties put children and residents at risk.

Further precautions are also needed for farmworkers and their families. Enforcement priorities for residential areas should be extended to field conditions for farmworkers. With personal protective gear in short supply, the state must ensure that no farmworker be forced to apply a pesticide without proper gear, and all label requirements met.

During this time of immense upheaval, we must plan for the future while protecting ourselves from immediate threats to health and safety. Supporting organic farms, and ensuring government follows suit, is a critical part of this long term planning.

Take action to encourage your state to prioritize health over pesticide use by sending a letter to your Governor urging them to stop the cosmetic use of pesticides during the Covid-19 outbreak. You can also stand up for farmworkers by telling Congress to provide additional benefits for these essential workers. Read more about the dangers pesticides pose to children through Beyond Pesticides’ Children and Schools webpage.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: CalEPA press release

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  • Archives

  • Categories

    • Announcements (586)
    • Antibiotic Resistance (16)
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    • Aquaculture (25)
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