Greenfield school board supports ag pesticide safety


Trustees pass historic resolution protecting students and staff

CONTRIBUTED ARTICLE

GREENFIELD — The Board of Trustees of Greenfield Union School District voted unanimously March 8 to pass a first-of-its-kind pesticide safety resolution.

Brought to the board by member Sonia Heredia, Resolution No. 1003 supports “protecting our staff and students from the health risks of agricultural pesticides by supporting a transition to less chemically-intensive agriculture and implementing buffer zones and notification systems for drift-prone pesticide applications around schools and neighborhoods.”

Agricultural pesticide use near schools has been identified as an important problem in the Salinas Valley by community members, who echo the findings of a 2014 Department of Public Health (DPH) report that found that one in four Monterey County students attend a school within a quarter mile of the heaviest 25 percent of pesticide use in the entire state.

The department’s Pesticide Use Mapping Tool reveals that pesticides applied near Greenfield schools include chemicals identified as toxic air contaminants, carcinogens and reproductive and developmental toxicants. The DPH report also identified Greenfield High School and Vista Verde Middle School as fourth and ninth, respectively, in the entire state for the pounds of the developmental neurotoxicant chlorpyrifos applied within a quarter-mile.

This resolution follows the state Department of Pesticide Regulation’s Jan. 1, 2018, rule that prohibits most drift-prone pesticide applications from occurring within a quarter-mile of public schools or daycares from the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on school days.

Among other things like educating families about the hazards of pesticide exposure and re-examining the district’s own use of toxic chemicals, the Board resolved to work with local and state pesticide regulators to “increase the health-protective zones around schools where highly hazardous pesticides are not to be applied” and “require at least one-week advance notification of highly hazardous agricultural pesticide use near schools.”

Greenfield City Council member Yanely Martinez and her son, Victor Torres of Vista Verde Middle School, both spoke in favor of the resolution on Thursday evening.

“I take my children’s health seriously, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to speak up against pesticide use near schools,” Martinez said.

Sorangel Tinajero is a community organizer with Lideres Campesinas, who is finishing up its Pesticide Awareness Month activities throughout the state.

“It’s empowering to see that more and more community members are getting up and talking about pesticide drift. We understand that this resolution is just the first step — we need to keep the conversation going,” Tinajero said.

Sonia Heredia, Clerk of the Board, introduced the resolution and wants the district to take its unanimous support as a call to action.

“It’s important that school staff and parents know exactly when pesticide applications are happening around our schools,” Heredia said. “Greenfield students deserve safe environments, and we should be doing all we can to work with the county to create stronger protections.”