Pesticides Putting Pajaro Valley Schools at Risk, Teachers Say

By Georgia Johnson, Good Times, 9/25/18

Fear flourishes amid industry reassurance, conflicting data

When third-grade teacher Melissa Dennis started working at Ohlone Elementary in Watsonville, she pictured her students playing in the adjacent strawberry fields, picking berries and running through rows of strawberries. But the more she talked to other teachers, the more she realized the reality might not be so idyllic.

“I started hearing about teachers in the past who had been organizing against pesticide use,” Dennis said. “I started thinking maybe I should be careful about drinking the water. But I never thought about the air.”

Ohlone Elementary was built right in the middle of farmlands. No one seems to knows why this location was chosen; the fact that surrounding farms use hundreds of gallons of pesticides and fumigants annually would make it seem less than ideal. Scientific findings on the dangers of pesticide exposure are complicated and sometimes confusing, but for residents, teachers, and farmworkers, the proof is in their experience and stories.

“When you read the label on the products, it says ‘these pesticides are toxic for small mammals, insects, frogs, birds,’” Dennis says. “They use thousands of pounds of this stuff all around us. What are human children but small mammals?”

Dennis eventually joined Safe Ag Safe Schools (SASS), a Salinas-based subgroup of Californians for Pesticide Reform (CPR), with a few other Pajaro Valley Unified teachers who say they have witnessed multiple cases of brain tumors, neurological problems and severe respiratory illness in young children at their schools. Just yards away from many of these schools, tarps stretch across pesticide-treated fields and teachers keep the windows of their classrooms shut….

read more at Good Times

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