An 'urgent advisory' issued last month by Tulare County Agricultural Commission Tom Tucker on June 22 led to confusion about a pesticide study being conducted and eventually to Tucker issuing a clarification.
The local air monitoring study is being led by Professor Deborah Bennett at the Department of Public Health Sciences at UC Davis as well as the UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center in partnership with Californians for Pesticide Reform and the Central California Environmental Justice Network. The study is part of the California Air Resource Board's Community Air Protection Program and is funded by a Community Air grant from the board that's supported by Assembly Bill 617.
But in reference to the study Tucker issued an advisory last month for growers to be on the “lookout” for trespassers while pesticides may be applied in fields and orchards. His advisory stated the Central California Environmental Justice Network was recruiting volunteers "who are potentially planning to carry backpacks through orchards and fields."
The study does involve about three dozen volunteers wearing backpack-mounted air-monitoring equipment for about 12 hours per day for three days.
Tucker's advisory also listed a phone number for his office and a phone number for the Tulare County Sheriff's Office to contact.
On July 6, Tucker issued a joint advisory with the California Environmental Protection Agency concerning the study. The clarification states the study “is consistent with the Legislature's intent that these grants be directed to community-led efforts, including to engage in air monitoring. The study focuses on potential exposures to pesticide toxic air contaminants, which may pose health risks to farmworker communities. In particular, it will aid in collecting information about potential personal exposure and in bridging gaps in DPR's (Department of Pesticide Regulation) monitoring network.
“More specifically, the study is an expansion of an ongoing National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences-funded pilot project in which participants collect air samples during the day using wearable backpack-mounted air monitors.”
The study was being conducted in seven communities in Fresno, Tulare and Kern Counties, including in Lindsay. The study was also being conducted in Cutler-Orosi, Arvin and Lamont in Kern County and Cantua Creek, Raisin City and Caruthers in Fresno County.
“The study, which was designed by UC Davis to ensure participant safety, has adult participants wear backpack monitors to collect air samples where they live and work,” the clarification stated. The clarification also stated no study participants have been instructed to enter into private property or fields and there have been no reports of anyone doing so.
The Clarification stated CalEPA and the Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner's office stated those who had questions about the study could contact Bennett at email@example.com and anyone wanting more information about AB 617 grants could contact Chanelle Fisher, firstname.lastname@example.org, 279-203-7074, or Trish Johnson, email@example.com , 916- 720-2041.
The Tulare County Ag Commissioner's office stated concerns about the study began with recruitment flyers with a photo of a crop duster and a reference to wearing an air monitor during the summer pesticide spraying season. The office added it was concerned volunteers might put themselves in harm's way by entering private property treated with pesticides.