New rules for agricultural pesticide use near schools

Nov 7, 2017

California announced new rules Tuesday for agricultural pesticide use near schools. The Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) said the rules take effect on January 1, 2018. After that date, growers won’t be able to apply certain drift-prone pesticides to fields within a quarter mile of schools and day care centers during school hours. 

According to the DPR, the regulation “includes all applications by aircraft, sprinklers, air-blast sprayers, and all fumigant applications. In addition, most dust and powder pesticide applications, such as sulfur, will also be prohibited during this time.”

The buffer zone will be in effect from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Growers also have to provide an annual notification to public K-12 schools and licensed day-care centers about which pesticides they expect to use over the course of the year.

The group Californians for Pesticide Reform said the new rules don’t go far enough to protect kids during non-school hours.

“The new part-time buffer won’t provide any protection for kids engaged in afterschool and weekend activities, and doesn’t account for the fact that many pesticides linger long after they are applied,” Paul Towers, a spokesperson for the Pesticide Action Network of North America, said in a statement released after the DPR’s announcement.

The PANNA statement also includes a quote from Dr. Ann Lopez of the Center for Farmworker Families. 

“This outrageous regulation-- years in the making—still does nothing to remedy the unfair pesticide burden borne by Latino schoolchildren,” Lopez said. “This is a continuation of DPR’s policy of environmental racism.”

In announcing the new rules, the director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation said the new rules give an extra layer of protection.

"These rules will help to further protect the health of children, teachers and school staff from unintended pesticide exposure. They build on our existing strict regulations,” according to DPR’s Brian Leahy.

The DPR reports receiving 19,000 public comments over the past two years about the proposed rules and the issue of pesticide exposure at schools.