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Persistent, Poisonous, Problematic: Pesticides (continued)

Case Study: Lompoc, California

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

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Fast Facts

  • More than one billion pounds of pesticides are used annually in the U.S. (5)
  • Public health costs associated with pesticide-related acute poisonings and cancer alone, add up to an estimated $1.1 billion dollars per year.(4)
  • About 70 percent of conventionally grown fresh fruits and vegetables contain pesticide residues.(5)
  • 82 percent of U.S. households use pesticides, with an average of 3-4 different pesticide products used per home.(6)
  • The majority of the U.S. population has detectable concentrations of multiple pesticide residues in their bodies.(7)
  • Switching children to organic food dramatically reduces their pesticide exposure and risk. (4)(18)
  • Pesticides approved for organic farming are much less toxic compared to conventional pesticides.(18)
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