Protect staff and students from the health risks of agricultural pesticides
March 25, 2018


Whereas, CFT members and the students and families we serve deserve healthy living and working environments that are free of chemicals of public health concern; and

Whereas, California communities who work and live near conventional agriculture are disproportionately affected by pesticide drift, which contaminates our water, soil, air, food, and bodies; and

Whereas, those impacted by pesticide drift are disproportionately Hispanic/Latino, and already subject to social, economic, and political discrimination; and

Whereas, children are the most vulnerable to the health harms of pesticide exposure because they eat, drink, and breathe more per unit of body weight and are in a period of development where they are least able to detoxify contaminants; and

Whereas, in the 15 California counties assessed by the 2014 Department of Public Health report titled Agricultural Pesticide Use Near Public Schools in California, 226 schools attended by over 118,000 students were within the top 25 percent of schools with pesticide use nearby1; and

Whereas, the above report found that an estimated 538,912 pounds of pesticides of public health concern were applied within a quarter-mile of public schools in the 15 counties studied in 2010; and

Whereas, the above report also found that out of the top 10 pesticides applied within a quarter-mile of those schools, six were toxic air contaminants, four were carcinogens, three were reproductive/ developmental toxins, and two were cholinesterase inhibitors; and

Whereas, air monitors near schools throughout the state have measured fumigant pesticides such as Telone (1,3-dichloropropene) at levels above the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s recommended regulatory target for cancer risk2, and air monitoring for the neurodevelopmental toxicant chlorpyrifos have resulted in risk estimates of concern for children3; and

Whereas, chlorpyrifos and other organophosphate pesticides have been linked to developmental delays, learning disabilities, hyperactivity, and lower IQ, as well as respiratory problems; and

Whereas, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has identified chlorpyifos as a Prop 65 developmental toxin based on current laboratory and epidemiological research; and 

Whereas, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has responded to statewide demands with a policy that creates quarter-mile buffer zones for half of the day4 and inadequately notifies the community of upcoming pesticide applications, failing to protect schools, workers, and communities from long-term pesticide exposure; and

Whereas, agricultural chemicals that negatively impact health, learning, and behavior contribute to increased costs for underfunded and understaffed schools, particularly special education programs; and

Whereas, California agricultural is a multi-billion-dollar industry5 and employs many of our students, their families, as well as our graduates; and

Whereas, consumers are also affected by pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables, and by the environmental degradation and climate change to which conventional agriculture contributes;

Therefore, be it resolved, that the California Federation of Teachers considers reducing pesticide exposures to be an environmental justice issue of high importance; and

Be it further resolved, that CFT supports regulatory and legislative actions to reduce exposures to hazardous agricultural chemicals, with particular emphasis on children, women of childbearing age, and agricultural workers; and

Be it further resolved, that CFT urges DPR to increase effectiveness of school regulation by expanding buffer zones, by creating additional restrictions on applications whenever students and families are present at school sites, and by facilitating improved communications between schools and nearby growers; and

Be it further resolved, that CFT contends that site-specific pesticide application information should be made available to the general public, thus removing perceptions of liabilities for school staff; and

Be it further resolved, that CFT will facilitate provision of resources to members in impacted communities on risks and harms of pesticide exposure and how and why to report possible pesticide drift incidents; and

Be it further resolved, that CFT supports increased fines for violations of local, state, and county pesticide regulations, with funds collected to be redirected to worker and community education on how to increase pesticide safety while reducing pesticide exposures; and

Be it further resolved, that CFT supports legislation to create “zones of innovation” around schools in order to explore sustainable alternatives to chemical agriculture, with funding coming from a tax on hazardous agricultural chemicals similar to that levied on tobacco products; and

Be it further resolved, that CFT supports a phase-out of fumigant pesticides and all pesticides in the organophosphate family, including a total ban on the neurodevelopmental toxin chlorpyrifos and a renewed ban on atrazine; and

Be it further resolved, that the re-visioning of California food production to reduce chemical inputs and improve soil health aligns with the long-term goal of improved soil, air, and water quality, decreased pesticide residues on foods, and decreased global climate change, with resulting reduction in costs for healthcare and education, and improved health and learning for our children and for future generations; and

Be it finally resolved, CFT will submit a similar resolution addressing national pesticide issues to AFT for adoption at the next national convention.

  1. Agricultural Pesticide Use Near Public Schools in California. California Environmental Health Tracking Program, 2014 
  2. Methyl Bromide, 1,3-Dichloropropene, and Chloropicrin Air Monitoring Results for 2010-2016. Department of Pesticide Regulation, 2017 
  3. Chlorpyrifos: Revises Human Health Risk Assessment for Registration Review. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2016 
  4. Addressing Pesticide Use Near Schools and Child Day Care Centers. Department of Pesticide Regulation, 2017 
  5. State Agriculture Overview, California. USDA, 2016 
  • Passed as Resolution 26 on March 25, 2018
  • Submitted by the Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers, Local 1936