Pesticide drift exposure shifts downward in Kern County
After a string of pesticide drift incidents in 2002 and 2003 affected more than 500 people, UC IPM Advisor David Haviland teamed up with the Kern County Agricultural Commissioner's office to reverse this trend, and they did.
Haviland and staff of the Kern County Agricultural Commissioner’s office partnered to conduct 31 training sessions on safe and effective use of pesticides and worker safety. Twenty of these sessions focused on the responsibilities of private applicators to provide a safe working environment and covered how to effectively manage information flow among pest control advisors, pesticide applicators, and farm labor contractors. The other sessions were “train-the-trainer” meetings that provided hands-on experience in English and Spanish on how to effectively educate fieldworkers about pesticide safety. To date, more than 200 people have completed the course.
Since the project began in 2004, pesticide drift incidents in Kern County have declined steadily. Incidents from 2004 to 2006 decreased from 4 to 1 per year, with the number of people affected decreasing from 125 to 18.
When asked about the reductions in human exposure in pesticides, Haviland says, “While it's true that many government and private organizations have focused on pesticide safety, it's ultimately the growers and applicators who are making a difference.
"There's been a whole shift in thinking about human exposure to pesticides in Kern County," he adds. "One example of this is the new 'Spray Safe' program, an industry-based pesticide safety awareness program that began in 2006. The old mentality where limited pesticide exposure is just considered part of the job has evolved into a regional ‘zero tolerance’ movement."
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