Call to Action for Healthy School Action Team Members and Supporters:
Support Washington Senate Bill 6529 to better protect farmworkers and students!
Recognizing that toxic chemicals associated with health impacts are widely used in our region, we support efforts to establish stronger environmental standards around schools and daycares and protections for farmworkers and their families. As members of the Washington farm worker coalition, we support SB 6529[i] for pesticide use reporting and notification standards.
If passed, this rule change would require notification to schools and daycares for a planned pesticide application. This would allow for schools to prepare and protect students by keeping students indoors and closing windows or ventilation systems. We know that even when following the label and best practices, pesticides drift into the environment and onto adjacent properties, including schools.[ii] The Washington Aerial Drift study found “spray drift occurring despite adherence to general precautionary pesticide application guidelines.” This 2002 research analyzed a routinely scheduled aerial organophosphorus pesticide application in central Washington and tested the crops and surrounding rural agricultural community.[iii]
In March of 2015, a school campus in Grant County, Washington, reported strong odor and drift from a neighboring field. Emergency services were called.[iv] The air-blast pesticide application to an apple orchard drifted onto four different school properties (high school, middle school and two elementary schools) including sport fields, tennis courts, and school district offices. This incident resulted in a $7,500 fine, the maximum authorized by Washington law.[v]
Why This Bill is Important
The school environment impacts learning for all children. Educational achievement is directly linked to students’ health and their learning environment. Children are at greater risk, as their small size results in a higher concentration of pollutant exposure. The EPA states that concentrations of air contaminants are often found to be two to five times higher indoors than outdoors due to the tighter buildings, reduction in outdoor air brought into schools for ventilation, reduced maintenance budgets, and the proliferation of indoor sources of contaminants. Chronic absence in kindergarten is strongly associated with lower reading and math performance in fifth grade for poor children.[vi] Pesticides are proven or suspected to exert neurological, psychiatric, developmental, hormonal, reproductive, and/or carcinogenic effects.[vii] In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a strong statement that children should not be exposed to any pesticides.[viii]
Amazingly, there is presently no requirement for prior notification of intent to spray, and this can put children at risk. At minimum, children and their caregivers, farmworkers and their families should be informed and given the opportunity to protect themselves, which is what SB 6529 would do.
One example of the need for notification is the exposure to schools and day cares in rural areas. Pesticide exposure in schools occurs from two routes: the intentional use of pesticides inside buildings and on the school campus for pest management and drift from agricultural and forestry applications. Based on a nationwide study of acute illnesses associated with pesticide exposure at schools, among 406 cases with detailed information on the source of pesticide exposure, 281 (69%) were associated with pesticides used at schools and 125 (31%) were associated with pesticide drift exposure from farmland.[ix] By passing this notification change, Washington could prevent drift exposure in 1/3 of the potential cases!
While pesticide applicators are required to maintain records of pesticide use, they are not required to submit them to a third party. Unfortunately, without proper pesticide reporting we do not have an understanding of how much of these chemicals are used, or how often, and scientists and health specialists are only able to study these practices when a tragic health incident occurs. Prevention from harm should be the highest priority.
SB 6529 would provide important and needed protections for community and environmental health. Call or email Governor Inslee and ask him to support SB 6529 and protect families, workers and schools from drift.
Email using this link: https://www.governor.wa.gov/contact/contact/send-gov-inslee-e-message
Or call this number: 360-902-4111
Sample talking script:
Hello, please support SB 6529 and other efforts to require notification and pesticide use reporting. We need to protect families, workers and schools from drift, and applicators should practice good record keeping and report their use of harmful materials. Educational achievement is directly linked to students’ health and their learning environment. Environmental and community health is important to me. Every Washingtonian is accumulating a body burden of toxic chemicals associated with health impacts; I urge you to support efforts to establish stronger environmental standards around schools and daycares and protections for farmworkers and their families.
[ii] Washington State Department of Agriculture. (2015, August 26). Pesticide Enforcement Actions. Retrieved December 21, 2015, from Washington State Department of Agriculture: http://agr.wa.gov/pestfert/enforcementactions.aspx
[iii] Tsai, M.-Y., Elgethun, K., Ramaprasad, J., Yost, M. G., Felsot, A. S., Hebert, V. R., et al. (2005). The Washington aerial spray drift study: Modeling pesticide spray drift deposition from an aerial application. Atmospheric Environment , 39 (33), 6194-6203.
[iv] Jenkins, D. (2015, July 23). WSDA levies maximum fine for pesticides drifting over school. Capital Press.
[v] Washington State Department of Agriculture, 2015
[vi] Chang and Romero, 2008
[vii] Kroger, 2005 and Kerry & Kroger, 2012
[viii] American Academy of Pediatrics, 2012
[ix] JAMA. 2005;294(4):455-465. doi:10.1001/jama.294.4.455