SACRAMENTO — Illnesses caused by agricultural pesticide exposure in California rose nearly 50 percent in 2015, according to data released May 31 by the Department of Pesticide Regulation.
The number of agricultural cases categorized as "definite," "probable" and "possible" pesticide-related illnesses and injuries increased from 265 in 2014 to 397 in 2015, the report showed.
Overall pesticide-related illnesses, including those stemming from non-agricultural exposure, were up 10 percent over the prior year. DPR’s latest Pesticide Illness Report documented 1,187 cases in 2015, a third of them agricultural. Drift was to blame for most of the agricultural incidents, including one in Kern County that sickened 82 workers.
Monterey County’s 89 agricultural pesticide illnesses and injuries were third most in the entire state only to Fresno County’s 102 and Kern County’s 98 cases. Monterey County saw a 370 percent increase in such pesticide illnesses above 2014.
The report also shows that “hundreds” of people were harmed even when workers followed federal and state regulations.
The report lists 167 episodes involving 209 individuals that had health effects attributed to pesticide exposure despite apparent compliance with label instructions and regulations.
“This indicates that current pesticide regulations are not working to protect children and farmworkers from acute health harms,” said Charisse Yenko, a registered nurse in Salinas. “But it’s worse than what this report says, because what’s missing is the fact that long-term exposure to even tiny amounts of pesticides can create permanent health harms in our people, even before we are out of the womb.”
Pesticide drift in 2015 sickened 97 children and staff at schools, a nearly four-fold increase from 2014, the report showed.
“These latest pesticide illness figures from the DPR tell us things are bad for workers and bad for kids,” said Monterey Bay Central Labor Council Executive Director Cesar Lara. “Obviously, the state and our county ag commissioners need to do more to protect us from pesticide harms in our everyday lives.”