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Tulare County Residents Win Greater Protection from Dangerous Pesticides

February 21st, 2008

After over two years of calling on local authorities for greater protection from airborne pesticides, communities celebrate the Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner’s announcement of new buffer zone rules. As spray season gets underway, communities across Tulare County welcome these changes and call for even stronger protections to protect the health of communities from toxic and illegally drifting airborne pesticides.

The new county rules—or “permit conditions”—require a buffer zone of one-quarter mile prohibiting aerial applications of restricted use pesticides around schools in session or due to be in session within 24 hours, occupied farm labor camps and residential areas. Gary Kunkel, the Tulare Country Agricultural Commissioner, signed the rules into effect on January 1, 2008.

The Allensworth School Board, the Cutler-Orosi School Board and over 1750 organizations and individuals have endorsed the call for buffer zones in Tulare County
. Community members launched efforts to establish buffer zones because of the serious health risks posed by pesticide exposure, ranging from short-term effects such as dizziness, vomiting and rashes to long-term effects including asthma, cancer, birth defects, damage to the developing child and neurological harm.

Community efforts have included conducting surveys documenting the general public’s exposure to pesticides, sampling for pesticides in their air and in residents’ bodies, and presenting local authorities with a petition endorsing the establishment of buffer zones around sensitive sites such as schools. Over 50% of all public schools in Tulare County are within one-quarter mile of agricultural operations, putting the county’s children at high risk of exposure.

These new Tulare permit conditions—the same as those in Kern and Kings counties—are the strongest buffer zones in the San Joaquin Valley. Other San Joaquin Valley counties either have weaker or no general buffer zone rules in place around schools, labor camps and residences.

Download a copy of Tulare County's new permit conditions.

Background information:
The Need for Protection Zones in Tulare County
Factsheet: Recent pesticide exposure incidents & health effects of pesticides
Read the results of a groundbreaking study on pesticides in the bodies of Tulare County residents in English or Spanish.

Media information:

Read the media advisory. Read the news release.

For more information, contact:
Tracey Brieger, Californians for Pesticide Reform 415-981-3939 x6 or 415-215-5473.

Available for interviews:

•    Irma Arrollo, President, El Quinto Sol de América, 559-827-7786, irma_medellin@yahoo.com

•    Teresa DeAnda, Central Valley Representative, Californians for Pesticide Reform, 661-304-4080, teresa@igc.org

•    Domitila Lemus, Community member, Plainview

•    Gustavo Aguirre, Assistant Director of Organizing, Center on Race Poverty & the Environment (661) 667-0136, aguigustavo@gmail.com

•    Karl Tupper, Staff Scientist and Coordinator, Environmental Monitoring Program, Pesticide Action Network, 415-981-1771 x314, karl@panna.org