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California Pesticide Use


California leads the U.S. in pesticide use, with more than 315 million pounds of pesticide active ingredients sold in 2000. Between 1991 and 2000 almost 2 billion pounds of active ingredients were applied in California alone.

These pesticides are applied in schools, in and around homes, on roadsides and on farmland. Picked up by winds and water, these chemicals are distributed to nearly every corner of the state and are commonly found on food, in surface water and groundwater, and in the air. Nearly 20% of the total pesticides used in the U.S. are used in California, a startling statistic considering that California cropland represents only 2-3% of the total planted acreage in the U.S.. This high use of pesticides is clearly related to California's production of many high-value fruit, nut and vegetable crops, as well as its large urban populations.

Many Pesticides Used in California Among the Most Hazardous
A significant fraction of pesticides used in California are "Bad Actor" pesticides capable of causing acute poisoning, cancer, birth defects, sterility, neurotoxicity, damage to the developing child and/or contaminating California groundwater. Of 188 million pounds of pesticides reported used in 2000 in California, 70 million (34%) meet one or more of these criteria.

After a massive increase in pesticide use in the early to mid-1990's, reported use in California has stabilized at about 200 million pounds of active ingredients each year. This figure only includes farm use and professional pesticide use. Not included are consumer and much institutional pesticide use. Also not included in this figure are so-called 'inert' ingredients. U.S. pesticide use is about 1.2 billion pounds each year, and worldwide pesticide use is about 5 billion pounds each year.

Pesticide Use Data and Maps
For more information about pesticide use in California by chemical, crop or county, see the California section of Pesticide Action Network's Pesticide Database. For maps of overall pesticide use in each county, see the "Regional Information" box above and to the right or Pesticide Use Maps for a statewide map.