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Paul Kiesel
Paul Kiesel
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Pesticide Use On the Rise In California

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Harmful pesticides on the rise. Pesticides link to cancer, birth defects and neurological damage.

This week the state released data showing that California farmers are using more pesticides than ever before. California growers applied 194 million pounds in 2005, up 14 million pounds from 2004.

The rise in pesticide use is of great concern to health professionals and environmentalists because many insecticides and herbicides have been linked to cancer, neurological damage, birth defects and other reproductive disorders. The greatest health risk is for farm workers and neighboring communities exposed to pesticide drift from the fields.

Pesticide contamination is a serious problem throughout the country, but especially in agricultural areas, led by Fresno, Kern, Tulare and Ventura counties. Chemicals applied to farm fields, orchards and lawns end up in the run-off that enters the ground and surface water. Additionally, organo-chlorine pesticides and outlawed chemicals such as DDT can stay in the water and soil for many years after use.

The U.S. EPA has failed to adequately protect our citizens from harmful exposure to pesticides by not setting maximum limits for many of the most commonly applied pesticides. In addition, it has been slow to ban chemicals known to cause serious health effects.

Health professionals are most concerned about grower’s use of fumigant gases injected into fields before planting to destroy insects and weeds. One fumigant linked to disease is Dow Chemical’s Telone or 1,3-dichlorotropene used on strawberries, almonds, grapes and carrots.

“Growers are not making progress toward using less-toxic alternatives for soil pests and that’s a problem that needs to be addressed,” said Susan Kegley, senior scientist of the San Francisco based Pesticide Action Network.

The U.S. EPA is in the process of reviewing all fumigants in order to determine possible restrictions of their use. The EPA should move swiftly to establish limits and outright bans on the application of all harmful pesticides!