Pesticides in Kern County: The health impact on field workers and advocacy for safer practices

February 21, 2024 /

By Brandon Bermudez

With various fields surrounding Kern County, pesticides are all around and have had a big effect on field workers as they are exposed to large amounts of them.

Some of the effects of the commonly used pesticides that are used in the Kern area are organophosphates pyrethroids cause dizziness, headache, nausea, muscle twitching, reduced energy, changes in awareness, convulsions, and loss of consciousness. 

When in high concentration like in the fields, another common pesticide that is used is carbamates which exposure to can cause headaches, dizziness, or weakness. It can make you feel like you will throw up. It can also cause shaking, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and sweating. Skin exposure to carbamates causes a minor rash. 

2013-2020 Alpine Helicopter Service is a Lodi CA-based company that sprays pesticides over large farm areas. They were involved in 11 pesticide incidents; one of their most popular incidents was where they sprayed a schoolyard. 

The same company failed to comply with the health and safety code and proceeded to spray pesticides including near children’s sports facilities. Nonprofit organizations like the Central Valley Air Coalition have asked the state and local agencies like the Fresno County Farm Bureau to help protect families from the effects of pesticides and they have thought of salutations like setting buffer zones or finding alternatives to pesticides to protect crops. 

The state has given a public response about pesticides being used in McFarland in 1975-1996 after three times the normal amount of cancer being diagnosed as the small city had only a population of 8000 at the time and had 21 children diagnosed with cancer when they looked further into the issue they couldn’t find anything conclusive. 

The investigation is highly controversial as the residents felt that the investigation was incomplete as they couldn’t find the cause one resident reported that they didn’t even test the deep soil or air. Another public response by the state about pesticide use was when a town called La Vina had an orchard on the outskirts of the town causing there to be a large amount of pesticide drift causing the pesticides too often to miss entirely and go toward residents homes.

Three residents talked about their incidents and precautions that need to be taken to not be harmed by pesticides:

Luis Zamudio stated: “To protect ourselves we normally wear semi-baggy clothing and a bandana.”

Juan Savala said: “You have to separate the clothing and take a shower before wearing new clothing; I had an experience where the pesticides were taken by the air and I felt anxious after a while of breathing it in.”

Mayria Gillen stated: “They do give us a warning before they spray more pesticides.”