Earlier this year, California became the third state to ban the brain-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos. The fumigant is used to stave off cabbage rot on crops like strawberries, broccoli and grapes.
The process of banning it activated a huge range of public health advocates and got a lot of attention, but it is far from the most widely used pesticide in Monterey County.
So what is floating around in the air locally? And is there enough of a concentration of any one pesticide to trigger a response? According to the 2018 Air Monitoring Report released by the Department of Pesticide Regulation in July, the answer in Monterey County is, not much.
DPR screens for 31 pesticides, as well as five breakdown byproducts. Two of the agency's monitoring sites are located in Monterey County, near Watsonville and Chualar. Annual results from those two monitoring sites show pesticides levels in the air all fell below health screening levels.
The data, which was gathered from Jan. 1, 2018 until Dec. 31, 2018, showed the pesticides with two highest acute 24-hour concentration levels at both the Chualar and Watsonville site are the known carcinogen 1,3-dichloropropene (usually sold under the brand name Telone) and chloropicrin (with market names Chlor-O- Pic, Metapicrin, Timberfume and Tri-Clor).
Both pesticides are used on strawberry crops, but were shown to be at or below 0.2 percent of their screening levels.
The DPR began the air monitoring report began in 2011 as a statewide network meant to track pesticide use in agricultural communities across the state. From the data, DPR assesses health risks and helps develop mitigation efforts.
The Air Monitoring Network has eight sites, two of which are in Monterey County. One is located on a private well in Chualar. The other is located at Ohlone Elementary School in Pajaro Valley Unified School District.