Children and Pesticide Use in Lindsay, California

By Esra Siddeek 

COlorado COllege Class of 2017



“…[environmental justice] means the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”[4]

This is the statement given by the state of California in regards to defining environmental justice.  One example of this type of environmental injustice are the residents of Lindsay who have been experiencing health problems during the peak spraying seasons of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on orange groves.[3],[7]

Residents of Lindsay, California protest against pesticide air contamination. [3]

Residents of Lindsay, California protest against pesticide air contamination. [3]

Due to the high-risk health hazards chlorpyrifos poses on children, a policy (AB 947) by the state of California was passed in 2001 called for the regulation of pesticides within a quarter of a mile from schools. However, AB 947 is not currently employed in Tulare County despite 50% of schools in the area being located within the specified distance.[3]

Therefore, Tulare County should construct buffering zones, especially in areas between schools and sites of chlorpyrifos use. Furthermore, adequate information regarding how to avoid exposure should be provided for the parents and guardians of affected children. This blog will first examine the effects of chlorpyrifos on humans, particularly children, the case study performed in Lindsay, the effect of the lack of public participation, and how environmental justice has not been met in relation to Title VI.

Properties/Health Effects of Chlorpyrifos

Chlorpyrifos is a type of insecticide used mainly on oranges, cotton, corn and several different crops.[7] Chlorpyrifos has been known to affect both insect and mammal nervous systems by inhibiting an enzyme Additionally, a loss of this enzyme can cause symptoms related to motor damage such as drooling and muscle twitches. More serious exposure can lead to breathing impairment and paralysis.[1]

Lindsay Case Study

lindsaysampleA case study in 1996 was conducted by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) in conjunction to the California Toxic Air Contamination act to monitor the chlorpyrifos use on an orange grove in Tulare County. It was found that there were high risks of exposure directly next to the application sites and in high use areas. Within Lindsay, there are five schools located near orange groves with chlorpyrifos application.[7] Of these schools, three are elementary. 95% of the samples collected were above the Reference Exposure Level (REL) for both children and adults. REL refers to the amount of airborne toxin an individual can be exposed to without adverse health effects.[8]

Public Participation Framework

Tulare County California consists of approximately 82% people of color living in Disadvantaged, Unincorporated Communities (DUCs)[5] because of the years of exclusion from the decision-making processes regarding land use and communal investments. Residents in DUCs often do not have the necessities for healthy living environments such as clean water and sewer systems.[9] Since people, such as in the town of Lindsay, living in DUCs are struggling to be heard and having input in the decision-making processes of such policies, the state of California has failed to address the frameworks of public participation outlined in their policy.[4]

Pesticide Use and Title VI

Title VI was initially a part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and describes the policy of preventing discrimination based on “race, color, or national origin” in participation of programs that require federal assistance in terms of finances. Over the years, Title VI has been adapted to encompass “impact” of burdens due to racial disparity.[2] Using Title VI in attempt to address the issue of impact on environmental resources has been proven to be complicated. In 2000, the U.S. EPA published a guide in defining the impact of environmental justice issues in the context of Title VI as, “negative or harmful effect on a receptor resulting from exposure to a stressor.” “Receptor” in the context of the quote refers to the individuals and/or groups encountering the problem.[10]

Like other communities in Tulare County, Lindsay has several individuals who cannot afford the cost of treatment necessary for chlorpyrifos poisoning. According to Javier Huerta, a resident of Lindsay:

“I have health problems and the doctor for the study told me that these might be related to exposures. The income of my family is low and I don’t have resources to go to the doctors. I have to choose between feeding my family or taking them to the doctor when pesticides seem to be making them ill.”[6]

As a result, Lindsay residents like Huerta are forced to manage their child’s symptoms on their own and thus cannot provide the necessary documentation to pursue a case in environmental justice despite the clear articulation of Title VI.


As discussed, residents of Lindsay, California come from predominantly low income communities and DUCs and have little input into environmental policies. This lack of public participation is one of the main reasons for why chlorpyrifos is so poorly regulated in Lindsay, which thus constitutes environmental injustice. An example mentioned earlier is the lack of enforcement in the notification to nearby schools regarding application. Moreover, stronger regulations need to be put into place regarding the agricultural use of chlorpyrifos. In addition to the suggested construction of buffer zones between sites of application and nearby schools, information should be readily accessible to the public in regard to preventing exposure. Lastly, research should be conducted on finding alternative methods of protecting crops without the use of pesticides.

Keywords: Tulare County, U.S. EPA, chlorpyrifos, DUCs, Title VI, Lindsay California, California ARB, AB 947

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Further Readings

  1. Christensen, K., Harper, B., Luukinen, B., Buhl, K., and Stone, D. Chlorpyrifos General Fact Sheet. National Pesticide Information Center, Oregon State University Extension Services, 2009. Web.
  2. Cole, L. W. “Expanding Civil Rights Protections in Contested Terrain.” Justice and Natural Resources: Concepts, Strategies, and Applications. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: Island Press, 2002. 187-208. Print.
  3. DeAnda, T. Airborne Poisons: Pesticides in Our Air and in Our Bodies. Tulare County: Californians for Pesticide Reform, 2007. Print.
  4. Order No. 12898, 3 C.F.R. (1994). Print.
  5. Flegal, C., Solana R., Jake M., and Jennifer T. California Unincorporated: Mapping Disadvantaged Communities in the San Joaquin Valley. Rep. PolicyLink. California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, 2013. Web.
  6. Huerta, J. Interview. Airborne Poisons: Pesticides in Our Air and in Our Bodies May 2007. Californians for Pesticide Reform. Web.
  7. Mills, K., and S. Kegley. Air Monitoring for Chlorpyrifos in Lindsay, California June–July 2004 and July–August 2005. Pesticide Action Network North America, 2006. Web.
  8. “Notice of Adoption of 12 Chronic Reference Exposure Levels (RELs) for Airborne Toxicants, Dec 2001.” OEHHA Science for a Healthy California. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, 28 Dec. 2001. Web.
  9. The Community Equity Initiative. San Francisco: California Rural Legal Assistance, 2012. Print.
  10. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Draft Revised Guidance for Investigating Title VI Administrative Complaints Challenging Permits. 2000. Print.

The Concrete Lining of the All-American Canal


By Zach Holman

The United States federal government has been notorious for committing environmental injustices within the border of the country since its inception. By lining the All-American Canal (AAC) the U.S. pushed an injustice across their southern border to the Mexicali region in Mexico. In 2009 Parsons Corporation — commissioned by the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) — completed the concreted lining of the All-American Canal. They only lined a 23-mile section of the 82-mile long canal that is fed from the Colorado River starting in Yuma, Arizona. It was highly contested by many groups. The canal was an important water source for the people of the Mexicali Region in Mexico who live just south of the U.S. border where the canal runs. A coalition formed between a few groups and sued the U.S. federal government in hopes of stopping the construction. The groups were the Mexican government, two U.S. environmental groups and the town of Calexico.3

The lining of the AAC was contested because when it was completed in the 1942 it was not lined and therefore over 67,700 acre-feet were lost to seepage each year. This may sound like a bad thing and that the U.S. should have lined it immediately with concrete to fix this, but the seepage became necessary to the Mexicali region. The seepage ran underground and recharged aquifers across the border. The Mexicali citizens used this water to fuel an agricultural industry and supply the people with drinking water.3 They had been using this water since the original canal was constructed. So, when the U.S. announced they would line a 23-mile long section the Mexicali people were outraged. “We were using this water for over 100 years and we developed the economy that depends on the seepage,” Rene Acuna, a Mexicali civic leader, explains.2

As the definition that this blog uses for environmental justice describes that the injustice must fall upon disempowered people, the Mexicali and Calexico citizens fall under this category. The Mexicali people are far more impoverished than the citizens of  San Diego County (where the water was diverted to) and they do not have the ability to fight adequately to prevent the injustice. Calexico is a town in California on the border that relied on business from Mexicali for its entire economy.4 It was a crucial shopping center for the Mexicali people.2 The Calexico citizens realized if the AAC was lined that the Mexicali economy would collapse and therefore people could not shop in Calexico. The people of Calexico are mostly Hispanic and impoverished. This qualifies them under the umbrella of environmental justice due to an action by the federal government. These two groups of people, the Mexicali and Calexico citizens, filed a lawsuit along with two environmental groups against the U.S. government and the case was heard in the Ninth District court.

The case was based on a few injustices. The first, argued by the environmental groups, was that wetlands would dry up and these wetlands were necessary for certain migratory birds. There is a U.S. law that states that if development is going to occur that harms habitats a full review must first take place. The required review did not happen. The second basis for the case was that there is a 1973 treaty that is part of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) between the U.S and Mexico that states if one of the countries is going to do development on surface or ground water the other country must be adequately consulted first. The Mexicali government, along with Calexico, said that the U.S. government did not adequately fulfill this agreement. The U.S only allegedly paid lip service to the Mexicali government.5

This obviously does not sound like anything new in U.S. history. A treaty is agreed upon and then is never held up by the U.S. It is a sad truth, but happens all, and I mean all, the time. The Ninth district court ruled in favor of the U.S. and as stated earlier awarded Parsons Corporation the contract and gave the go-ahead on the project.1

The lining is clearly an environmental justice issue. The people who were affected most are disempowered populations that do not have options for fixing the problem. They cannot just find a new water source and the water that remains in the aquifer is becoming dangerously salinized as there is not a constant source of fresh water to dilute it. In the framework of environmental justice, reparations should be made toward the Mexicali and Calexico people. What remedy would be just, though? Is money enough to offset a lack of water? These questions need to be asked by the U.S. government; the only problem is the court did not rule that the U.S had any responsibility to the groups affected. This means those questions were not asked and the people were left high and dry, most literally.


All-American Canal, US-Mexico Border , Environmental Justice, Calexico, Mexicali, Colorado River, USBR, Water


  1. “All-American Canal.” All-American Canal. Parsons, 2008. Web. 04 Nov. 2016.
  1. Boxall, Bettina. “Suit Is Filed Over Plan to Line Canal.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 20 July 2005. Web. 03 Nov. 2016.
  1. Cortez-Lara, Alfonso, and Maria Rosa Garcia-Acevedo. “The Lining of the All-American Canal: The Forgotten Voices.” Natural Resources Journal40, no. 2 (March 15, 2000): 261. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed October 26, 2016).
  1. Cortez Lara, Alfonso A., Megan K. Donovan, and Scott Whiteford. “The All-American Canal Lining Dispute: An American Resolution over Mexican Groundwater Rights?.” Frontera Norte21, no. 41 (January 2009): 127-150. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed October 26, 2016).
  1. Ries, Nicole. “The (Almost) Ail-American Canal: Consejo de Desarrollo Economico de Mexicali v. United States and the Pursuit of Environmental Justice in Transboundary Resource Management.” Ecology Law Quarterly35, no. 3 (August 2008): 491-529. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed October 26, 2016).
  2. Perry, Tony. “Officials Hail $300-million Project to Line Leaky All-American Canal.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 1 May 2009. Web. 04 Nov. 2016.