George Rauh and I met waiting in line for fish tacos at the Los Angeles farmers' market. We struck up a conversation about agriculture and he told me about the higher lung cancer rates and respiratory illnesses in his home town of Lompoc.
Located about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, Lompoc is separated from the Pacific Ocean by seven miles of rich farmland, with a climate that allows for year-round farming, and spraying.
Approximately 50 different pesticides are used regularly in the Lompoc Valley; many are carcinogens and nerve poisons. The ocean breezes deliver those chemicals from the valley into the city, wreaking havoc on the health of Lompoc citizens.
California’s Environmental Protection Agency documented 37 percent more lung cancer, 69 percent more bronchitis, and 58 percent more asthma in Lompoc compared to surrounding communities, plus a two-fold increase in respiratory problems requiring hospitalization of infants.
Rauh worries about farm workers’ health, and the synergistic effect of multiple toxic chemicals, where the combined effects are worse than any single compound. He's observed that as bugs and weeds naturally become resistant to sprays, farmers apply even more chemicals.
Rauh believes that if farming practices moved forward, using more organic methods, Lompoc could return to the paradise it once was.
Learn more about Lompoc: www.rachel.org