Racist new rule overwhelmingly impacts Latino communities

Lindsay, CA: The statewide coalition Californians for Pesticide Reform unequivocally denounces the regulation finalized today by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) for the drift-prone, cancer-causing fumigant pesticide 1,3-dichloropropene.

In the face of settled science, DPR has chosen to ignore the cancer risk level determined to be safe for all Californians and has instead chosen a risk level for the mostly Latino residents of farmworking communities that is fourteen times higher.

This is racism, pure and simple. 

More than 99.9% of the public comment on the draft regulation called for DPR to follow the 2022 determination by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), which found that lifetime exposure in excess of 3.7 micrograms per day (equivalent to 0.04 parts per billion) posed an unacceptable cancer risk

DPR ignored this outpouring of public comment and instead chose a regulatory target of 0.56parts per billion – fourteen times higher than OEHHA’s “No Significant Risk Level.” 

To be clear: exposure to this gaseous and highly drift-prone fumigant pesticide is almost entirely confined to those who live and work near where it is applied. While OEHHA’s determination applies equally to all Californians, the people at greatest risk of illness and death resulting from 1,3-D exposure are overwhelmingly of Mexican and Central American origin. A regulation that harms a single racial group with such surgical precision is a violation of civil rights laws and common decency.

Although 1,3-D is a little known chemical, it is the third most heavily used pesticide in California, a known carcinogen, a volatile organic compound and a Toxic Air Contaminant. It is already banned in 34 countries around the world, including major agricultural economies such as France and the UK, where it is considered too toxic to use safely in any amount. In California, around 11 million pounds of 1,3-D are used each year, most heavily on the almond orchards of the San Joaquin Valley and the strawberry fields of the Central Coast.

We often hear the claim that California has the strictest pesticide regulations in the world. DPR’s regulation of 1,3-D, a gift to industry that perpetuates the status quo of cancer-causing fumigations in our rural neighborhoods, exposes that claim as a risible lie. 

Jane Sellen and Angel Garcia, Co-Directors, Californians for Pesticide Reform

Californians for Pesticide Reform is a diverse, statewide coalition of 200+ member groups working to strengthen pesticide policies in California to protect public health and the environment. Member groups include public and children’s health advocates, clean air and water groups, health practitioners, environmental justice groups, labor, education, farmers and sustainable agriculture advocates from across the state.

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