BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Kern County is among the top four counties with the highest use of pesticides in the state according to a report from the Department of Pesticide Regulation.
Community organizers are using studies that show these pesticides cause lasting health issues to push for a notification system to be implemented in the Shafter area.
The community organizers said most of the community here is composed of farmworkers, who do anything like wear sweaters in triple-digit heat to save themselves as much as possible from these pesticides. Yet these people are afraid of losing their jobs if they voice their concerns, which is why community organizers are doing it for them and all other community members.
“It is so sad to see someone who has worked for years in the fields and see that they have cancer on their face that is eating away at their nose and eye or see someone who had to get their leg amputated or they have ink in their body where you know they are going to die at any moment,” said Anabel Marquez, Community Organizer and Shafter resident.
It’s something that’s tough to see for Marquez. She, along with other community organizers, are hoping the county will implement a notification system so that people can know when to bring their kids in, close windows, and take other prevention measures when pesticides are being applied to nearby crops.
Researcher Julia Heck is one of the authors of the studies linking pesticides to health issues like childhood cancer, she too echoes notification is an issue.
“People living there, like they just know it is happening but they don’t know what it is, they don’t know like are there days that I should avoid being here, are there specific thing that I can do, it’s like we know it is harmful but we don’t know what it is,” said Heck, Associate Dean for research at the College of Health and Public Service at the University of North Texas.
With the push from local organizers the state has allocated funds towards creating a pilot for a notification system in Shafter, different from the statewide system being created. But the organizers say the AG Commissioner does not want to be part of that pilot program and wants to wait until the pilot becomes a statewide law.
AG Commissioner Glenn Fankhauser did not respond to 23ABC’s request for comment but did talk about this issue in August at the Board of Supervisors meeting.
“There has been some talk you know that I am not doing my job, well if that is only based on me not implementing a notification in Shafter, there is only one other notification in the state, that is in Monterey County, so there is 53 other AG Commissioners who aren’t implementing notification if I am not doing my job,” said Fankhauser.
Organizers point out that there is already a notification system for growers to tell other neighboring growers when they will be applying pesticides and all they want is for the system to also include residents and workers in all of Shafter.