September 24, 2005 — By California Safe Schools

Los Angeles — One of the "common sense" bills that just passed the California State legislature this session is the Governor's greatest headache. Will he veto it to protect a generous and powerful industry? Or will he protect more than 6 million children and hundreds of thousands of teachers, and school employees, by signing it? Assembly Bill 405 protects those in school from exposure to experimental pesticides.

Is it legal to expose kids to untested toxins? Absolutely! And until AB 405 becomes law, it will stay that way. Currently, California allows pesticide products without full registration and missing health data to be applied on school sites, which may expose school children, teachers and other members of the public to unreasonable and unknown health risks.

Historically, pesticide products that have conditional registration or experimental use permits have been sold and used for years without completing outstanding data requirements. Missing data typically includes information about metabolic impacts, mechanistic properties, the fate of residue, risk assessment, efficacy, leaching, stability, receptor dosage, application, and resistance studies. In this case, what you don't know can certainly hurt you.

AB 405, authored by Assembly member Cindy Montanez and sponsored by California Safe Schools — a children's environmental health organization — closes that loophole. Additionally, the bill prohibits the use of pesticide products on school sites that have had their registration canceled, suspended or marked for phase out of use.

The dread we all feel about increasing numbers of cancer, asthma, learning disabilities and birth defects has triggered a movement for proactive health measures. Because of their constantly developing physiology, children and adolescents are especially vulnerable to the damage of chemical exposures.

Aside from disrupting the immune and reproductive systems, kids can be impacted neurologically-ironically harming their ability to learn in the institution they are sent to be educated. The act that threshold levels of pesticide exposure and health studies are currently based solely on an adult male of approximately 160 pounds underscores that children are counting on adults to protect them. So far, we are failing.

The bill's long list of endorsers include the California Medical Association, California State PTA, California School Boards Association, California Teachers Association, Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, Los Angeles Unified, Learning & Disabilities Association of America, Sierra Club, California League of Conservation Voters, and the Environmental Health and Environmental Justice Community. While the recent victories of AB 405 are encouraging, the battle is not over.

Even with more than hundreds of chemical products available in this bill to address all health and safety emergencies, no financial impact to school districts or industry, the Governor's office is already hearing from a brigade of chemical industry lobbyists.

The only hope for our children, teachers and school employees is that the Governor hears from you too.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-445-2841
Fax: 916-445-4633

For further information
Robina Suwol
Executive Director
California Safe Schools