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CA Bill Provides Aid to Pesticide Exposure Victims
(Beyond Pesticides, June 8, 2004)
Legislation was introduced in California on May 25 that would provide funding to cover medical costs associated with pesticide exposure, according to the Desert Sun. The Senate Bill 391 also calls for better training of emergency care workers and ensuring they quickly get data about the wayward pesticides to ensure prompt and correct treatment.

According to the bill, pesticide manufacturers would be responsible for the medical funding, which would be held in a new state account. The Desert Sun reports that manufacturers would be asked to make an initial contribution - called a fee in the bill - totaling $300,000 to $500,000 to the new account. It would be subsequently sustained by fines paid for misuse of pesticides. In cases where no one was found at fault for drifting pesticides, an existing state fund which is usually used for such disasters as earthquakes and floods may be tapped.

California’s huge agriculture industry has forced the state to address this issue of pesticide drift and the resulting health effects. Senator Dean Florez, D-Shafter, who introduced the bill, stated, “The fight may look and feel like a farm worker fight, but ultimately it will be a fight for people who live on the edge of a potato field.”

Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers, said, "Farm workers and other rural residents are too often victimized twice by pesticide poisoning. They are victimized first when they are exposed to toxic pesticides where they live. They are victimized again when they get stuck with the medical bills for treating their exposure."

Glenn Brank, of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, commented that state rules regarding pesticide use were enough, if properly enforced, and that these rules are refined when shortcomings are found, reports the Desert Sun. The Western Plant Health Association, which represents both pesticide manufacturers and applicators, is just beginning to review the proposed legislation. WPHA’s president Stephen Beckley did urge "out of the box” funding of pesticide medical care costs.

Features of the bill would be phased until they are in operation by Jan. 1, 2007. For the time being, Senator Florez wants to run a pilot program in the 15 counties using the most fumigants.

TAKE ACTION: Contact members of California state senate to demand their support of SB 391. Write to your own state representatives and urge them to introduce legislation to protect victims of pesticide drift.