Saturday, July 5, 2014
Pesticide Drift | Rebecca Clarren | Orion Magazine:
TERESA AVIÑA won’t open the windows or door of her small apartment, despite a heat that plagues the soul. On the kitchen table, beside two jugs of bottled water, a small, green, electric fan pushes thick air around the room.
“What good is the wind?” she asks, glancing out the window at the breeze that flutters the trees in her front yard. “It’s all poison.”
When Aviña, sixty-four, first moved to Huron, California, from Ensenada, Mexico, eleven years ago, the planes that swooped low in the sky, close to the roof sometimes, fascinated her. She’d run outside to watch them fly to the end of her block, where they would drop pesticides like rain onto the cotton fields below.
Infant and prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides such as chlorpyrifos leads to significant mental and developmental delays, according to recent studies published in Environmental Health Perspectives and Pediatrics. In one 1998 study, four-to-five-year-old children in Mexico who had been exposed to pesticides suffered significant lags in development—they had more trouble catching a ball, drawing pictures of people, or performing simple tasks involving memory and neuromuscular skills. Other studies link pesticide exposure to autism, infertility, neurological disorders, cancer, and birth defects.
Despite the steady drumbeat of government and industry assurances that such findings are no cause for worry, these reports do concern Drift Catcher operator Siboney Cruz and her mother, Frances Arguis. Most days, the abandoned field behind their house, once a landing strip for crop-dusting planes, becomes a makeshift playground where the kids play tag, duck-duck-goose and hide-and-seek. One of her boys, Adam, nine, has asthma, and when growers spray his wheezing kicks up. In fact, 30 percent of children in Fresno County have asthma, more than double the statewide rate, according to a 2005 survey conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles. “Every time you turn around, an unbelievable environmental justice issue slaps you in the face,” says Tracey Brieger, agricultural policy coordinator for Californians for Pesticide Reform, a nonprofit group based in San Francisco. “It feels like the valley is the center of the modern civil rights movement in the country.”
Posted by JOlmsted at 10:16 AM