2015 Totals Are Second Highest Ever Recorded

Use of hazardous agricultural pesticides in California increased by 23 million pounds (12%) in 2015 over the prior year to a staggering 213 million pounds, according to pesticide use data just released by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. This is the second highest use recorded since 1990, when reporting began. Almost half of the statewide total – 100 million pounds – was used in just four San Joaquin Valley counties: Fresno, Kern, Tulare and San Joaquin.

Of particular concern in the 2015 data is a sharp increase in the use of pesticides that are known to be carcinogenic – up 17%. There were large increases in the use of Telone (up 16%) and metam potassium (up 35%), two cancer-causing fumigants that are highly prone to drift away from the fields where they are applied and onto neighboring homes and schools.

Use of the organophosphate chlorpyrifos once again exceeded one million pounds. Chlorpyrifos has made headlines since March, when US EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced his decision to defy his own scientists and reverse a proposed nationwide ban of a chemical linked to autism, IQ loss, and ADHD.

The alarming numbers in the 2015 data have many worried about the risk of exposure for children to chemicals that are known to cause significant health risks, including cancer, asthma, autism, and developmental, neurological and reproductive harms. A 2014 report by the California Department of Public Health (DPH) documented extensive use of hazardous pesticides within a quarter mile of public schools, with Latino children almost twice as likely to attend one of the most impacted schools as their white peers. The DPH report relied on 2010 data, which have never been updated.

With a new regulation aimed at protecting school children from pesticide drift now being considered for implementation next year, updating the data on use near schools on an annual basis is critical to measure the success of the regulation, say children’s health advocates.

“As California establishes new rules on pesticide use near schools and daycares, we need the tools in place to measure progress towards reductions in the use of highly hazardous pesticides,” said Sarah Aird, co-director of Californians for Pesticide Reform.

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