The Pesticide Spray Business (everything connected with
monoculture farms is a “business”) is pretty quiet in the winter. That’s when
we can draw a deep breath, (hopefully free of chemicals), curl up and plan our
summer's perfect garden, re-read past issues of Mother Earth News, and peruse
books on raising livestock or back yard chickens.
Come spring, though — watch out. The farmers fill up their
tanks and away they go — no matter if the wind is gusting over 20 mph…right toward
your property. Not all farmers throw caution to the wind, so to speak, but even
one applicator who disregards the pesticide spraying label is one too many.
If you have had pesticide drift on your property in the
past, or suspect you have had, then now is the time to prepare yourself for the
new 2013 Pesticide Spray Season.
First things first, of course. What is a pesticide?
“Pesticide” is the catch-all word that includes herbicides, insecticides and
What is Pesticide Drift? “Pesticide drift” is the movement
of a pesticide through the air away from the intended target. You might
actually see the drift in the form of a mist. You may smell it. But it can be
invisible and odorless. The spray may be applied from the back of a tractor —
referred to as a “rig.” Or it may be applied from a spray plane or helicopter.
There is also the possibility — especially if you work away
from your property — that you may not see the actual pesticide spray applied to
a nearby field. You may notice it only after the fact, by observing your plants
or trees wilted, curled or discolored.
As a note of caution, frost can imitate some aspects of
pesticide damage. So can insects. But if you suspect you have had a pesticide drift incident, it helps if you
know what to do and act quickly. Here are some suggestions:
Before the season starts: HAVE A
DEDICATED NOTEBOOK already prepared.
This notebook could be titled with your name,
the year, and “Possible Pesticide Spray Drift Incidents”. Then list the
following data and fill out each line when you actually observe a spray drift
Location of incident
Type of applicator if known (ground rig or
Wind speed and direction, if possible
Brief description of exactly what was
Name of company and/or individual who applied
Name of the person who owns the property where
the pesticide was applied
Name of the chemical(s) applied
Witnesses (if any)
Documentation with photos or videos: yes
As you can see by the last entry, in addition to your
pesticide spray notebook, be sure to have your digital camera or video camera
charged and ready for use. If you are on your property when an incident
happens, then photograph it or video tape it. If there is a spray plane flying
over your home at low altitude, try to video the “N” number on the plane.
There are other things which must be heeded always. If, for
instance, you are directly sprayed or feel you have received a good dose of
spray drift, you need to call 9-1-1 or go to the hospital immediately. Here in
Illinois, there was one incident where a lady was drifted with a pesticide as
her neighboring farm was sprayed with chemicals. She went to the hospital
feeling woozy and nauseous. She could taste it in her mouth. The doctor called the
company who applied the chemical. The company refused to tell the doctor what
chemical was used in the spraying. Most of the time this kind of cruelty does
not happen. Most farmers and company applicators are more forthcoming.
Also, if you have children or pets outside and you see a
spray plane or ground rig upwind from you, get your children/pets in the house
quickly and close all windows and doors.
During and after spray drift incidents, it is vital to stay
calm. This can be difficult to do when you see a foggy cloud coming right for
your beautiful vegetable garden or orchard. But it always helps to keep a clear
head and know what you must do to prevent more incidents from occurring in the
This is the first round of information on how to handle a
possible pesticide drift incident, but more information is needed. My next blog
entry will cover how to ask for a Pesticide Complaint Form from your
enforcement agency and what to do with it.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, please go to
Spray Drift Education Network’s downloadable pamphlet on our website: www.SprayDriftIllinois.com. Even
though your state may be somewhat different from Illinois, this website will
help you become familiar with the process. Other helpful websites are:
Pesticide Action Network and
National Pesticide Information Center.
Lastly, please feel free to leave any comments you have, ask
additional questions or relate your story. You can also call Spray Drift
Education Network at 815-988-2628. I look forward to hearing from you.
Jane Heim, in 2011,
co-founded Spray Drift Education Network (SDEN), a grass roots organization
dedicated to helping Illinois citizens report and prevent pesticide drift. She
presently lives near Paw Paw, Ill., on 19 organic acres which she is
transitioning to a Permaculture Restoration Farm.
Photo by Fotolia/Superingo