Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 18, 2014

Study finds no pesticide drift

By DIANE VANCE | Jan 16, 2014
Deborah Roberts

In August, Fairfield resident Deborah Roberts collected air samples among the corn and soybean fields north of town for seven days to measure possible pesticide wind drift.

Roberts collected daily air samples in small tubes with a cotton core, set up in a friend’s yard in Abundance EcoVillage on Highway 1.

Those tubes were labeled and stored in her home freezer, then shipped over-night to a lab in Berkeley, Calif., for analysis, at the end of a week.

Roberts received back a written report in December.

The bottom line outcome, “The results of your air sampling were non-detectable, meaning no pesticides detected at or above the level that the laboratory is able to test – or reporting limit. The classes tested for are as follows: Chemical classes test for — carbamates, organochlorines, organonitrates, organophosphates and pyrethroids.” The written report from Pesticide Action Network North America, said some of the reasons air samples aren’t positive even though sampling is generally done when pesticide applications occur, include:

• Nothing was applied.

• Something was applied, but no spray drift and/or the pesticide were not volatile enough.

• Something was applied and drifted, but amounts in the air were not sufficient to be captured, and yet damage was documented.

• Something applied and drifted, but the sampling media, the air tube, was not the right type for that particular pesticide.

• Something was applied, but the type of chemical caught could not be analyzed with the methods used.

“It’s good news for our area that nothing was detected,” said Roberts. “I also sent in a sample of tap water from my kitchen sink, and the results for Fairfield water came back as nothing wrong in it.”

Roberts first became interested in working with Pesticide Action Network when she saw a call for volunteers.

PAN is an organization based in North America working worldwide to alert people to pesticide use, its health affects and to find alternatives to pesticide use in producing crops and growing food. Its website panna.org has further information.

“I’ve had nine friends in Fairfield die from cancer,” Roberts had said in August, as to why a study of air and water interested her.

After signing up online to volunteer, Roberts was selected to participate for air sample collection in Iowa and attended a one-day training in Grinnell.

“When I went to the training, everyone else there was an organic or CSA farmer, and I thought, ‘Where are the other concerned, regular people?’” she said.

CSA means Community Supported Agriculture where community residents can buy produce directly from farmers, such as local food movements and farmers markets.

Roberts was the only non-farmer attending the training for air sampling and she became one of 15 Iowans certified.

She decided to set up her sampling station at a friend’s home in Abundance EcoVillage, because corn and bean fields surround it and the airport is nearby, one type of location PANNA is concerned about, Roberts said.

“Pesticide wind drift has been measured up to 15 miles away in some studies,” she said.

PANNA’s website describes spray drift as droplets released from crop duster planes or from tractors that miss their target.

Volatilization drift happens as pesticides slowly evaporate into the air from the soil or off crops after application, which can take place for several days after an application.

Spray drift can happen in agriculture, forestry and from home and lawn garden care, according to information on the website.

Farmers at the spring training she attended to become certified talked about spray from other fields drifting onto their organic crops, said Roberts.

“Crop dusters aren’t in state-of-the-art condition and often those tanks leak as the plane flies to and from its destination. Lawn chemicals are common in neighborhoods and at schools.

“And then there’s this whole thing about pesticides and bees,” said Roberts. “Another big concern is pesticides leaking into ground water.

“I plan to do this again this summer,” she said. “I found it very interesting.”

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