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Pesticide drift exposure declines in Kern County

The Issue

Kern County has historically had some of the highest occurrences of pesticide exposure incidents in California. This trend peaked during 2002 and 2003 when a series of seven pesticide drift incidents affected more than 550 people. Each incident had significant negative impacts on human health.

What Has ANR Done?

UC Cooperative Extension entomology farm advisor David Haviland and staff of the Kern County Agricultural Commissioner’s office conducted 31 training sessions on safe and effective use of pesticides and worker safety. Twenty of these sessions focused on the responsibilities of private applicators to provide a safe working environment and covered how to effectively manage information flow to pest control advisors, pesticide applicators and farm labor contractors. The other sessions were “train-the-trainer” meetings that provided hands-on experience in English and Spanish on how to effectively educate fieldworkers about pesticide safety.

Haviland plans to continue providing "train-the-trainer" programs to help farm labor contractors and farmworkers protect themselves from exposure to pesticides. As of 2009, Haviland has trained 319 farm labor contractors that have in turn trained tens of thousands of fieldworkers. Meanwhile, additional programs, such as the Kern County industry-based “Spray Safe” program will help growers provide a safe working environment.

The Payoff

Pesticide safety training protects Kern County workers and residents

Since the project began in 2004, safety trainings have contributed to a steady decline in pesticide drift incidents in Kern County. Incidents from 2004 to 2006 decreased from 4 to 1 per year, with the number of people affected decreasing from 125 to 18. These reductions continued in 2007 and 2008 such that the goal of no drift incidents was attained in 2008.

Reductions of pesticide drift incidents constitute a direct improvement to public health. Less drift means a safer working environment for fieldworkers and a better living environment in urban areas adjacent to agricultural fields.


Supporting Unit: Kern County

David Haviland, (661) 868-6215, dhaviland@ucdavis.edu