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Rural activists ask for county supervisors' support in push for pesticide notifications


Anti-pesticide activists rally outside Kern's County Administrative Building Tuesday afternoon in downtown Bakersfield.

Demonstrators equipped with recent studies showing harmful health impacts from ambient exposure to pesticides rallied outside Kern's County Administrative Building on Tuesday to prod the Board of Supervisors to help break an impasse that has blocked public notification of local farmers' plans to treat their crops with dangerous chemicals.

Fifteen activists, some locally based with the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment and others from a Ventura County affiliate of Californians for Pesticide Reform, asked the board to support a Shafter group's bid for a pilot project that would disseminate nearby farmers' plans for using certain toxic pesticides.

The group of mostly rural residents did not explicitly call on the board to take action against county Ag Commissioner Glenn Fankhauser, whose proposal for a more limited public notification system has been rejected by the Shafter group.

Fankhauser's refusal to turn over farmers' notices has also put him at odds with state officials, who have responded with a plan to institute pesticide notifications statewide.

While some in the Shafter group have in the past called for Fankhauser's dismissal, their comments Tuesday were more measured as they called for the board to provide unspecified help in support of their push for local notifications ahead of any statewide rules.

"We want everything to be transparent," Rufina Solano, a member of the Ventura County Coalition Advocating for Pesticide Safety, told reporters. She added that people living near farms and orchards are paying the price physically for farmers' pesticide use.

CRPE Organizing Director Gustavo Aguirre Sr. said notifications would help Shafter-area residents know when to close their windows and call their children indoors, adding, "There (are) pesticides going into the homes of the community."

Fankhauser, backed by local farmers worried outside activists will use notification data against them, has denied the Shafter group's proposed notifications would help in the way Aguirre suggested. The commissioner told the Board of Supervisors earlier this year that farmers' notices of intent to apply pesticides are too general to be used to predict exactly when a chemical treatment would take place.

The two studies demonstrators made reference to Tuesday link childhood cancers with prenatal exposure to certain ag pesticides.

The first study, published last year in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, found elevated risk of acute myeloid leukemia for people whose mothers lived near, or who as children lived close to, application of pesticides including diuron, phosmet, kresoxim-methyl and propanil.

The second peer-reviewed study was published in June in the journal Environmental Research. It concluded ambient exposure to certain pesticides during a woman's pregnancy may increase risks her child will develop cancer. Among the chemicals the researchers linked cancer risks to were bromacil, thiophanate-methyl, triforine, chlorothalonil, propiconazole, dimethoate and linuron.