New rules further restrict use of pesticides near California sch - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

New rules further restrict use of pesticides near California schools

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The California Department of Pesticide Regulation has adopted new rules meant to protect students who attend schools near farmland. 

The new rules strengthen regulations surrounding the use of agricultural pesticides near schools and daycares where kids may be unintentionally exposed to pesticides.

"Obviously, Santa Maria is an agricultural-based city and a number of our schools are near fields," said Maggie White, Santa Maria-Bonita School District spokesperson. "So what this does is just give a greater distance between the application of pesticides and the schools and it also really limits the hours that farmers can apply pesticides."

The state attributes the new rules to a growing California population with children who may be attending classes right next to working farms.

The new rules include buffer zones prohibiting pesticide usage between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays within a quarter mile of a school or daycare. This 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.

"They are running, playing, breathing really heavy and for areas like this where pesticides are used, it's been shown that they do drift and they are in the air," said Adam Vega, pesticide community organizer with C.A.U.S.E. "Some of these chemicals require a full hazmat suit, breathing apparatus for farmworkers to apply. If the same isn't available to our children in these schools, we have to wonder why."

Another restriction requires growers to provide an annual notice to schools about the pesticides they may use for the full year.

"It's all about making sure our schools are healthy places for our students and staff," White said. "We will be working very carefully with the local farming community to make sure that they have our schedule and we know their schedule so that there is no overlap."

"These regulations are a bit more restrictive than what we have in our permit conditions," said Rudy Martel, Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioners Office. "So we are going to enforce the new regulations and we obviously will make sure our growers are utilizing these new regulations."

The latest air monitoring results from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation show that for the last two years, all of the pesticides monitored were found below levels that indicate a health concern. 

KSBY reached out to several growers with land surrounding schools in the cities of Santa Maria and Guadalupe for comment, but none responded before airtime. 

The new statewide standards take effect on January 1, 2018. 

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