Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian Ohlone Elementary School in Watsonville is seen adjacent to an agricultural field.

A group of educators, union officials and pesticide reform advocates have sued the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner, alleging they have repeatedly allowed dangerous pesticides to be used near schools.

The lawsuit was filed March 29 in Monterey County Superior Court by Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers, Safe Ag Safe Schools, Center for Farmworker Families, Monterey Bay Central Labor Council and Californians for Pesticide Reform.

The coalition is represented by Earthjustice.

The filing accuses those agencies of  “rubber-stamping” applications of toxic pesticides such as chloropicrin and 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D), to be used in agricultural fields near three Pajaro Valley schools.

According to the lawsuit, children at Ohlone and Hall District elementary schools and Pajaro Middle School, some of which also house onsite daycare centers, suffer some of the highest exposure to fumigants in the state. 

The chemicals are known to cause deleterious health effects such as difficulty breathing and cancer. 

Still Monterey County officials repeatedly approved permits allowing fumigations in the vicinity of these schools, the lawsuit alleges.

“The State and our County Ag Commissioner have allowed a cancer-causing pesticide in the air that Ohlone Elementary Schoolchildren breathe at more than twice the level the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment says is safe,” said Greenfield City Councilmember and Safe Ag Safe Schools organizer Yanely Martinez. “Our kids need protections from the regulators, not dereliction of duty.”

Earthjustice attorney Elizabeth Fisher said that California officials are mandated by law to address the cumulative impacts of harmful pesticides on human health and consider safer alternatives. 

“The Ag Commissioner and DPR continue to rubber-stamp pesticide applications without doing either, disregarding the health and safety of our state’s most vulnerable people—young children,” Fisher said.

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA. https://pajaronian.com/r-p-reporter-honored-by-csba/


  1. This article is full of opinions, and very few facts. It only tells one side of the story. How can you call this journalism?

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    • Did you read the lawsuit that was linked to the article? This is a clear case of environmental injustice and the story needs to be told. Our food system is toxic and 9 million pounds of chemicals being applied cannot be healthy. Rubber stamping is happening and our health is suffering. These kids do not have the choice of where they goto school, but adults do have a choice on whether to spray these toxic chemicals. I hope they are found guilty and the spraying stops.

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