October is Children's Environmental Health Month!
It's October, time for pumpkins, apples, and trick-or-treating. It's the perfect time for us to remember our children's basic right to clean air, water, and food (candy!), and consumer products (like toys!) California State Assembly bill HR-123 declared October as Children's Environmental Health Month (authored by Assemblymember Reyes). This year the Assembly highlighted two issues that need action in our state: the lead exposure that still exists in 99% of California’s water lines, and pesticide exposure in farmworker communities and neighborhoods near agriculture.
We are spreading the word and encouraging other organizations and policymakers to raise awareness and understanding of children’s issues, and to advocate for improvements in practices to protect children from exposures to environmental hazards. Children’s bodily systems develop so rapidly during early life and puberty. During these times a child’s exposure to a toxin can have dramatic impacts to their child’s nervous system and organ development leading to lifelong health issues. The Center for Disease Control recently reported that 40% of America's children have a chronic illness which includes asthma and developmental/behavioral problems. These diseases are directly linked to environmental pollution.
Children have a basic right to clean food. Pesticide residue has been steadily increasing since 2012 in the food we eat in California. Between 2012 and 2022 the amount of pesticide residue in California produce has more than doubled. In 2022 the California Department for Pesticide Regulation CDPR found 87% of all California fruits and vegetables contained toxic pesticide residue with 5% of all fruits and vegetables containing poisonous and illegal levels of pesticides. According to a recent Center for Disease Control study, 80% of children and adults in the United States have glyphosate (active ingredient in RoundUp) in their bodies.
In Sonoma County, children (and their families) are regularly exposed to pesticides which can drift several miles. Parents or caregivers who work in agricultural industries bring pesticides home on their clothes which have been shown to accumulate in their homes. More than 2.5 million pounds of agricultural pesticides were used in Sonoma County in 2017, with more than 2.3 million pounds (93%) of that total used on the wine grape crop. "Sustainable" grapes and wine are rarely organic. Sprayed pesticides drift and expose neighborhoods to air pollution. There is no notification system to warn families to avoid outdoor activities and bring kids inside while pesticides are being sprayed.