The Science of Sustainability

Reporter's Notes: Catching the Drift – Part 2

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Luis Medellin and Karl Tupper set up a drift catcher in Lindsay, CA.

My radio story on pesticide drift looks at how residents in the citrus town of Lindsay are monitoring pesticides in the air and in their bodies. They are using a device called a Drift Catcher, modeled after technology used by the California Air Resources Board and the Department of Pesticide Regulation.

The pesticide drift catcher has a vacuum pump that sucks air into a glass test tube, where pesticide residues are trapped in a resin. Community members change out the test tubes and send them to a lab, where scientists crack them open, extract the residues with an organic solvent, and then analyze those extracts through gas chromatography.

The Lindsay study measures Chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that can cause headaches, blurred vision, and muscle weakness when people breathe in the air from a recently-sprayed orchard or field. Studies also show prenatal exposure MAY have effects on children's cognitive and motor skills.

Environmental lawyers are using preliminary data from the Lindsay drift catchers in a petition asking the EPA to create pesticide buffer zones around schools, child care centers, and hospitals.

Listen to the Catching the Drift – Part Two radio report online.

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Category: Environment, Health, Radio, Sustainable Health

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Sasha Khokha

About the Author ()

Sasha Khokha is Central Valley Bureau Chief for KQED’s  statewide public radio program, The California Report. Based in Fresno, she covers a vast geographic beat, including the nation’s most productive farm belt, some of California’s poorest towns, and Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks. Whether trekking up a Sierra glacier with her microphone, interviewing farmworkers in Spanish, or explaining complicated air or water quality issues, Sasha translates rural California to the rest of the state. She is a graduate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and Brown University, and the mother of two young children.
  • Nina Becker

    great reporting. How could city folks know this was happening?? If they can do this to poor rural people, what are they doing to us in the cities — downwind and using water from the same watersheds — likely filled with their chemicals in violation of the Clean Water Act, per the recent series of reports in the NY Times.