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Contact: Charlotte Fadipe
July 31, 2013 (13-5)

DPR 2012 Air Monitoring Shows Pesticides Well Below Health Screening

SACRAMENTO - For the second year in a row, the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) air monitoring, in various California rural agricultural communities, shows nearly three dozen pesticides have residue levels well below levels established to protect human health and the environment.

"This is reassuring news for residents," said DPR Director Brian Leahy. "Our monitoring in 2012 shows that none of the pesticides exceeded their screening levels, indicating a low health risk to the people in these communities. These findings indicate that the state and county restrictions are keeping air concentrations below the health protective targets set by DPR."

In 2012, as part of its commitment to statewide air monitoring, DPR monitored 33 pesticides and five pesticide breakdown products in three California communities: Salinas (Monterey County), Shafter (Kern County) and Ripon (San Joaquin County).

These communities, part of the DPR air monitoring network (AMN), were selected from a list of 226 communities based on pesticide use on surrounding farmland and demographics, including the percentage of children, the elderly and farm workers in the local population.

The pesticides were selected based on their potential health risks and the amount used. They include methyl bromide and chlorpyrifos. Results released today also include methyl bromide concentrations monitored by Air Resources Board stations in Oxnard (Ventura County), Santa Maria (Santa Barbara County) and near Watsonville (Monterey County) at DPRís request.

Overall, the AMN 2012 report found that 94.5 percent of the 6,002 analyses (number of samples times the number of chemicals analyzed) resulted in no detectable concentrations.

Other key findings include:

  • For 2012, all measured pesticide air concentrations were less than DPR's regulatory targets or screening level.
  • Of the 33 pesticides and five breakdown products that were monitored, 14 could not be detected at all and 13 were only detected at trace levels.
  • The pesticides detected the most often were chlorpyrifos and MITC. Both were found at all three locations 28 percent of the time, at air concentrations that were low relative to the screening levels.

No state or federal agency has established health standards for pesticides in air. Therefore DPR developed health screening levels for the monitored pesticides to place the results in a health-based context.

"The data helps DPR to determine whether our restrictions on pesticide applications protect people and the environment in the long term," added Leahy.

California is the only state that monitors air as part of its continuous reevaluation of pesticides to ensure the protection of workers, public health and the environment. This includes conducting field studies to monitor exposure to workers and to measure how pesticides move and break down in air, soil and water. DPR uses this information to decide if further regulatory measures are necessary.

DPRís air monitoring network, was established to expand DPR's knowledge of the potential health risks of long-term exposure to pesticides. DPR scientists sought more accurate estimates of health risks based on long-term exposure rather than extrapolation from short-term monitoring data to help them determine if additional protective measures are needed.

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