Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 23, 2015

Contacts:  Nan Wishner, California Environmental Health Initiative, (530) 467-3069,  
Debbie Friedman, MOMS Advocating Sustainability, (415) 608-8317,
Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (213) 598-1466,
Marcus Collins, Beetle treatment-zone resident,

Court Order Sought to Force Disclosure of California Pesticide Spraying

Community Outraged at Spraying of Sacramento Schools, Backyards

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Public-health and environmental groups, along with the city of Berkeley, are seeking a court order on Friday to require that a California agency publicly disclose and analyze any pesticide spraying it conducts that poses risks to people, wildlife or the environment. The groups are asking a Sacramento court for a preliminary injunction to require that the California Department of Food and Agriculture follow state environmental laws when spraying harmful pesticides. This summer the Department is spraying residential neighborhoods and school playing fields in Sacramento with three pesticides linked to cancer, birth defects and miscarriage. These pesticides, intended to kill Japanese beetles, are also highly toxic to bees.

“The state has not adequately analyzed or disclosed the public-health risks of these pesticides. Children are particularly vulnerable because of their behaviors and rapidly developing bodies,” said pediatrician Michelle Perro. “The state’s analysis claims that infants will never come into contact with the pesticide residues, which is directly contradicted by normal infant and child development, in which hand-to-mouth behavior is prominent.”

The state agency has outraged residents in the Sacramento communities of Carmichael and Fair Oaks by spraying backyards and neighborhoods multiple times with three pesticides — carbaryl, cyfluthrin and imidacloprid — in its failed Japanese beetle eradication efforts. The beetles have reappeared in the area for more than 30 years despite repeated pesticide treatments; the agency has refused to use nontoxic alternatives recommended by the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture such as deploying predatory insects, milky spore fungus-based products, traps and neem oil. It has obtained warrants to forcibly spray the backyards of residents who have objected to pesticide spraying around their homes.

“These hazardous chemical treatments pose many risks, including exposing students to pesticides on school athletic fields and exposing aquatic species in the adjacent American River,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

The groups seeking the court order filed a lawsuit in January challenging the agency’s reliance on a statewide environmental report to conduct pesticide spraying and chemical control without further analysis of the harms to specific communities, the environment, or organic farms where that spraying occurs. The agency approved the program despite tens of thousands of public comment letters calling for a less toxic approach. Since approving the plan, the agency has carried out at least 18 pest spray and management activities — including in San Luis Obispo, Bakersfield and Hollister — without any site-specific environmental review.

“A court ruling requiring CDFA to disclose its pesticide spray campaigns and their potential harm would be a major victory for public health, enabling state residents to scrutinize and challenge the agency’s decisions to force residents to submit to treatments such as the current toxic spraying of residential yards in Sacramento,” said Bill Allayaud, California director of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group.

The lawsuit and preliminary injunction request were filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Working Group, California Environmental Health Initiative, MOMS Advocating Sustainability, Center for Food Safety, City of Berkeley, Pesticide Action Network North America, Center for Environmental Health, Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, Beyond Pesticides, Californians for Pesticide Reform, and Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment. The plaintiffs are represented by Sheppard, Mullin, Richter, and Hampton, along with ATA Law Group.


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