Central Coast

Dear Jon: Agency says pesticides in the Salinas Valley air pose low risk

2012 study sheds light on the health risks

There continues to be a question of the level of pesticides in air quality in the Salinas Valley and what if any health risk they pose. But you may be surprised what the latest study has to say about this. Tyrone from Salinas asked me, "Dear Jon, is it true that the air in Salinas is high in pesticides?"

I contacted the state Department of Pesticide Regulation that monitors air quality and their response to Tyrone's question is that's not true.

They base this on their most recent study that was done right here in the Salinas Valley during all of 2012. This question is not just a concern for the Salinas Valley but the Central Valley as well. Here on the Central Coast the testing station is set up at the Salinas airport. Two other state testing stations are in Ripon in San Joaquin County and Shafter in Kern County.

The agency says Salinas's airport was chosen for its long term availability. The objective of the study was to determine potential concentrations that a community may be exposed to, not to measure concentrations from applications. The airport site is surrounded by agricultural fields and this allows the DPR to monitor both the areas of high fumigant use to the north and west and the high non-fumigant use to the south and southeast.

The DPR took over 6000 samples during the 12 month study and they were looking at 33 specific pesticides in the air in the Salinas Valley. Analysis included a variety of fungicides, insecticides, herbicides, and defoliants. The breakdown products of chlorpyrifos, diazinon, dimethoate, endosulfan and Malathion were also included in the study.

The result, of the 33 compounds monitored, 27 were not even detected or trace amounts were found.

So according to the DPR study the health risk is considered low.

Here's how the sampling was conducted. One 24-hour sample was collected each week at each of the three sites. The starting day varied each week with the actual dates being randomly selected. Sampling start times were left to the discretion of the field sampling personnel, but they always started anywhere from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

No state or federal agency has established health standards for pesticides in the air. So DPR developed health screening levels for the monitored pesticides to place the results in a health-based context. The health screening level is the calculated air concentration based on a chemical's toxicity that is used to evaluate the possible health effects of exposure to the chemical.

This is a comprehensive study, so for now the DPR says we should be reassured that their findings indicate that state and county restrictions on pesticides are keeping the air here, within safe levels set by the state.

The DPR says being near where applications have just occurred is far different from this kind of air sampling. But again the thrust of this study was not to measure concentrations from applications but to determine potential concentrations that a community may be exposed to.

You can contact me with your question by click the byline above or email me with your question at DearJon@KIONRrightNow.com. On Facebook at Jon K Brent KION and Twitter at DearJonKBrent.

Read the complete study here: http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/emon/airinit/amn_2012_final_report_1013.pdf

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