PANNA and a number of environmental health and community groups
sued California's Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) for
failing to uphold the Toxic Air Contaminant (TAC) law. The law,
enacted in 1984, requires DPR to assess pesticides as potential
air contaminants, and to regulate them in order to protect public
More than 900 pesticides are registered in California, yet in
the last 20 years DPR has completed the review process for only
four. Of the 172 million pounds of pesticides used in 2002 in
the state, more than 90% are prone to drifting from application
sites as airborne toxins.
Pesticides are a major component of air pollution in California's
Central Valley. According to the California Air Resources Board,
pesticides are among the top three contributors to ozone pollution
(smog) in the San Joaquin Valley, and account for nearly 10% of
the ozone-forming gases produced in the region. High levels of
ozone trigger asthma attacks and exacerbate other respiratory
illnesses. In 2002, asthma rates in Fresno County were the highest
in the state, and the third highest in the nation. Nearly one-third
of pesticides used in California are also associated with serious
chronic and acute health problems, such as cancer
or nervous system damage.
"Millions of Californians are exposed to airborne pesticides
against their will. Like secondhand smoke, these 'secondhand pesticides'
put us at risk of serious health problems such as asthma, cancer
and neurological damage," said Susan Kegley of Pesticide
Action Network. "For over 20 years, DPR has ignored its duty
to uphold the Toxic Air Contaminant law and shirked its responsibility
to protect the health of Californians."
Pesticides are the largest source of toxic substances released
into the environment in California. In 2002, pesticide use accounted
for the release of 5.7 times more toxic materials to the environment
than manufacturing, mining, or refining facilities, as reported
through U.S EPA's Toxic Release Inventory. If enforced, the TAC
law would provide an important tool to reduce a major source of
Central Valley air pollution.
"When state agencies like DPR refuse to implement the law,
communities like mine suffer the consequences," said John
Mataka of Grayson Neighborhood Council in Stanislaus County. "Pesticides
are a double health hazard because they're toxic and they cause
air pollution. Here in the San Joaquin Valley, we breathe polluted
air, have the highest rates of asthma in the state and suffer
from other chronic diseases like cancer because DPR allows industrial
agriculture to continue with business as usual."
The lawsuit was filed by Pesticide Action Network North America,
Californians for Pesticide Reform, Grayson Neighborhood Council,
Wishtoyo Foundation/Ventura Coastkeeper, Neighbors at Risk, Association
of Irritated Residents, and Community and Children's Advocates
Against Pesticide Poisoning. The plaintiffs want DPR to comply
with its duty under TAC to assess pesticide toxic air pollutants,
to take action to reduce the health impacts of these air pollutants,
and to comply with the sections of the law requiring public transparency
and input, including review by an independent Scientific Review
Panel and substantive cooperation with California's Air Resources
Board and Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA).
The plaintiffs also seek to ensure that risk
assessment and mitigation measures for pesticide air pollutants
are completed and implemented on a timely schedule.