As State Weighs Pesticide Restrictions, California’s Farmworkers and Students Continue to Be Exposed

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In 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, California used more than 900,000 pounds of chlorpyrifos, a product commonly used on strawberries that is linked to developmental disabilities. Photo credit: Lily Dayton

When teacher Cristin Romo looks out her classroom window at Hall District Elementary School in rural Santa Cruz County, she feels unsettled.

Across the street from the school parking lot are agricultural fields, usually planted with rows upon rows of strawberries. Romo wonders whether pesticides used on those fields could be behind the strange smell that wafts frequently into her classroom. She worries especially about a pesticide called chlorpyrifos, a product commonly used on strawberries that she recently learned is linked to developmental disabilities and other health problems in children.

Romo, who’s taught at Hall Elementary for 16 years, has a 7-year-old son with attention-deficit disorder and a 4-year-old son with autism. There’s no way to prove it, but she wonders if exposure to chlorpyrifos could have affected her sons’ brains while she was pregnant with them. She also wonders why so many of her students have asthma and other health issues.