On May 20, you wrote:
<<the New Zealand government is proposing a regulation that will
effectively legalise low levels of spray drift. The proposed regulation
aims to make illegal any levels of spray drift over a calculated Maximum
Exposure Level(MEL), thereby making legal any levels below the MEL. The
MEL is based on the acceptable daily intake (ADI) which is in turned based
on acute toxicity for a 70kg healthy adult. Naturally there are some
concerns about what protection the MEL will afford people who are not 70kg,
not healthy, on medication, exposed to more than one incident of drift per
day, or who are organic growers - organic growers will lose certfication
with any level of drift. Additionally, the MEL will be different for every
different pesticide, so the user is very unlikely to work out just how much
of each spray he/she can legally drift on to the neighbour.>>
How distressing! Well, I can understand the desire to be specific about the
amount of drift that's not ok. However, as you point out, using this
method ignores serious realities of drift. To me, drift is one of the key
problems with pesticide use. Trying to regulate it when the reality is
that ecosystems are interconnected, not stopping at property lines, to me
is a largely futile exercise, and demonstrates very clearly the reason
these dangerous materials shouldn't be used at all. A local farmer says to
me "I can do what I want on my own property." But, I think, "if these
pesticides stayed on your own property, we'd be having a very different
conversation." When they cross the line, that is chemical trespass. And
they regularly cross that line.
Studies have shown that these pesticides can travel great distances.
According to Dr. Marion Moses, "Pesicides can drift as far as 50 miles from
the site of application... Significant concentrations of almost all
pesticides applied aerially or by ground rig sprayers can drift up to a
mile or more from the site of application, even under the best wind
conditions. (AAOHN Journal, 3/89) (She's in San Francisco Calif 94142.
Dr. Rea (in his 4 volume definitive reference, "Chemical Sensitivity", p.
839) says "Pesticide contamination is now a global problem. Often spraying
in one area of the world will result in pesticides ending up someplace
else.... A few days after spraying was done in Lubbock, TX, pesticides
appeared in Cincinatti, approximately 1500 miles to the northeast.
Toxaphene pesticide sprayed in Greenville, MS, has been shown to be
deposited in St. Louis and900 miles to the north in northern Lake Michigan
and Isle Royale in Lake Superior. (He has references for each of these.
He's in Texas, (214) 368-4132.)
<<Could anyone provide information on what other countries have in the way
regulations on spray drift - do you know of any country that has legalised
certain levels of drift?>>
(1) California has a law against "substantial" drift, and how to define
"substantial" is the issue. The responsible representative of our local
Agricultural Commissioner (Sonoma County) requires there to be measurable
amounts on the ground before they will even consider action - completely
ignoring (and actually actively dismissing) the proven route of inhalation
(he considers it people just not liking the smell, rather than a known
route of harmful exposure).
(2) According to the Journal of Pesticide Reform, Spring 1995, pg 4.
("Pesticide Drift: Indiscriminantly from the Skies")
"Unfortunately, most of the laws related to pesticide use are not designed
to protect individuals and their property from exposre. Instead, they are
written to allows as much pesticide use, with its inevitable drift, as
"In general, laws in the Pacific Northwest (and elsewhere) do not deal
directly with the problem of drift. Of the five Northwest states, only
California has an explicity prohibitionof drift. Even thatis not absolute
because the law prohibits only "substantial drift." [Calif. Food and Ag
Code 12972] Also, restricted use pesticides in California can have special
drift requirements imposed by the county agricultural commissioner; [Calif.
Food and Ag Code 14006.5] In Washington, damage to "humans, desirable
plants and animals, or wildlife" is prohibited by administrative rules, but
not drift specifically. [Wash Adm Code 16-228-1875] Drift is covered in
all northwest states by general prohibitions against applying a pesticide
in a manner that is inconsistent with its labelling. Idaho and Orgeon also
have a prohibition aggainst applying a pesticide in a careless or negligent
manner. However, the language on the label relating to drift is often
ambiguous. For example, "Do not apply when weather conditions favor drift."
(3) The U.S. pesticide regulation system makes the impossible assumption of
zero drift - that's how you have requirements of full body covering for an
applicator, while next door a baby plays unprotected on the lawn. As Dr.
Marion Moses has said, "Pesticides obey the laws of physics, not the laws
of the state of California." Studies, such as those by Cornell entymologist
show the obvious - that the ecosystem is interconnected by wind, water
flow, volatilization (the sun's heat bringing pesticides from the ground
back into the air), etc. Instead, the system assumes that pesticides will
regularly stay within property lines, that the times they don't are the
exceptions rather than the rule and caused by "irresponsible operators",
and that one can control that risk by controlling these operators. But
then local enforcement against these operators is limited by the rules of
proof when there are multiple applivcators in an area (what hurts us more
is used to keep the harm from being stopped!) and the limitations in
understanding of the level of risk by local officials. It's like trying to
catch a herd after they've left the barn - rather than keeping it from
leaving the barn in the first place.
(4) You might want to contact:
* NCAP (Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides) - their Journal
of Pesticide Reform has had numerous articles on drift over the years
(including those on the list below). P.O.Box 1393, Eugene OR 97440 (503)
* IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements) - to
find out about what's going on internationally - and perhaps even to get
assistance in taking action against this law to protect organic farms. (In
our economy, economic losses can have more power than health claims.)
IFOAM@t-online.de - http://ecoweb.dk/ifoam
* PAN (Pesticide Action Network) - they take action and are networked with
people around pesticide use issues - they could likely offer information
and support on this issue, including helping get the word out about it.
Their website is excellent; you might see if there's something interesting
there. 116 New Montgomery, #810, San Francisco, CA 94105. (415) 541-9140.
Fax:(415) 541-9253. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web site:
Hope this information is helpful. Please keep us informed!
Community Action Publications (Calif.)
* Note: If people find this summary useful and want to use it farther, it'd
be nice if you can credit Community Action Publications for our efforts to
bring it all together and summarize it. Thanks!
--- SOME ARTICLES ON DRIFT ---
* Jnl of Pesticide Reform, Winter 1988, p. 7. Study of the amount of spray
drift by application method. Shows wide amounts of spray drift, even with
a responsible operator.
* "Drifting Against the Wind," Jnl Pestic Reform, Winter 1990. Discusses
drift in different weather conditions. Most people think they need to just
avoid windy days. This summarizes research that shows pesticides drift in
all kinds of weather - including still weather (inversions) - thus the only
protective solution is to use less-toxic approaches.
* "Bringing Those Who Cause Harm to Court", Jnl Pestic Reform, Summer 1987,
discussing current law and how it can be applied to victims of toxic
exposure, creatively (beyond the current "party line" about the
* Drift Management, 1995 Farm Chemicals Handbook. From farmers view, lots
of details about how they can reduce their drift. Possibly as part of
educating them on reducing their drift? Includes discussion of different
weather conditions, including inversions (where it seems very calm so
they'd think it was ok to spray, but in fact you have a pocket which can
move the pesticides sideways).
* Bitter Fog, Jnl of Pestic Reform Summer 1987. Shows high levels of
pesticides in fog - a route of drift I find that our local officials don't
pay attention to.
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