Saturday, February 23, 2008

Stepping Forward for Children's Health

March Celebrates Rule to Protect Schools from Pesticides

Martin Cuevas of AFSC's Farm Labor Program, Proyecto Campesino, (pictured above) participates in a historic quarter mile march in Plainview, CA on February 20th. Photo Credit: John Tipton, Noticiero Semanal.

The march commemorated a new regulation enacted this year in Tulare County. The rule prohibits aerial spraying of pesticides within a quarter mile of residential areas, occupied labor camps, or schools in session within 24 hours of the pesticide application (Fresno Bee). Participants included local residents and advocacy organizations including AFSC, the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment and Californians for Pesticide Reform (The Portville Recorder).

"Pesticide exposure affects learning," said AFSC Proyecto Campesino Program Coordinator Graciela Martinez. Pesticide drift caused over one-third of pesticide-related illnesses at California schools between 1996 to 2005, according to an Associated Press report. The report found 590 pesticide-related illnesses at schools within those years.

Participants in the march walked a quarter mile to demonstrate how far the spraying should occur from schools. No federal law exists to ban pesticide spraying near schools. Advocacy organizations in California are lobbying for state-wide laws.

Organizers March Onward to Safeguard Children

"There is still a lot of work to be done," said Martinez. "One of the next steps is to attempt to keep schools from being built in ag-surrounded areas," she said.

AFSC Proyecto Campesino and its allies in the San Joaquin Valley area plan to work next on ground application of pesticides. State law still allows ground-based spraying of pesticides in residential areas and around schools (Fresno Bee).

To learn more about AFSC Proyecto Campesino click here.