Lindsay citizens speak against pesticide impacts
Locals share their struggles at a people’s tribunal where experts also explain the evidence that support their claims that pesticides are harming their communities
LINDSAY – Community members and experts gathered to draw attention to the effects that pesticides are having on agricultural communities, and advocate for better conditions.
On Tuesday, Sept. 12, the Californians for Pesticide Reform and the University of California Irvine hosted a people’s tribunal at the Lindsay Wellness Center to discuss how pesticide use and exposure is impacting the civil rights of citizens.
The event acted as a forum for community members to deliberate over civil rights in the context of pesticide use and exposure. Citizens who have personally been affected by the use of pesticides, as well as experts, made their voices heard and spoke of the dangers of pesticide exposure at the convening.
“There is no environmental justice reform for working communities and those who live near ag land,” activist Bianca Lopez said.
According to a press release from the Californians for Pesticide Reform and UC Irvine, Farmworkers and agricultural communities are among the least protected and least visible populations in the United States. In California, 97% of farmworkers are Latinx, 92% are Spanish-speaking and over 90% are immigrants.
Lopez herself recounted her experience trying to get information from the ag commissioner’s office through pesticide use reports. She said the information she received initially stated that pesticides were being sprayed without warning on weekdays while the local schools were in session.
When Lopez tried to file a formal complaint with the Tulare County Ag Commissioner, she was told that the data submitted was incorrectly submitted by local farmers and it was unclear if any of her concerns would be addressed.
A professor of law at UC Irvine, Gregg Macey, recounted some of the testimonies that were said in Spanish at the meeting as well as some he received from individuals who are dealing with the effects of pesticides.
In his recount of the testimonies, Macey explained that some people have experienced redness and rashes on their skin and face, as well as others having to go to the emergency room from pesticide impacts. Even with the physical ailments clear to see, Macey said many of the claims are not taken seriously.
“In such a regime, it is imperative for farmworkers and their families to protect themselves,” Macey said. “But this is difficult – if not impossible – for those with limited English proficiency, for those who speak Spanish or for those who speak one of many indigenous languages.”
He continued to explain that many of the farm workers impacted by the pesticides are not being warned and trained in a language they understand, as law requires.
“That is enshrined, not just in pesticide laws, but in other laws as well. In the state of California, it is clear that these warnings, trainings and other essential protections for workers are not equally available to (non English speakers),” Macey said.
State and federal laws prohibit state-funded discrimination, and require agencies to advance environmental justice. However, farmworkers, parents and children who attend schools near pesticide use, and agricultural communities, rarely have access to justice via traditional means, according to the Californians for Pesticide Reform news release.
The first violation of EPA regulations in regards to the effects of pesticides was added under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 following a complaint from Angelita C., who submitted her complaint on behalf of children who were attending schools near locations where methyl bromide was being used.
Title VI states that no person in the United States shall, can be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance on the grounds of race, color, or national origin.
At the meeting, a number of experts also spoke and presented their findings regarding the effects of these pesticides. Dr. Carolyn Cox, formerly the Center for Environmental Health explained some of these findings at the meeting.
Cox explained that children whose mothers were exposed to pesticides during pregnancy had a higher chance of developing metabolic syndrome, which is a medical condition that includes symptoms such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, obesity and a higher chance of developing diabetes. Cox also stated that there are 10 different pesticides that have been linked to a faster progression of diseases that affect the nervous system such as Parkinson’s disease.
It was noted by other experts that pesticides can increase the likelihood of learning disabilities, developmental problems, ADHD and autism in children.
People’s tribunals take the form of legal proceedings run by public figures, legal practitioners and community leaders. Designed to demand accountability, their claim to authority begins with the argument that members of the community are competent to invoke and apply the law on their own when governments are unwilling to do so. The Tribunal is made possible by a generous grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.