On Sunday, Feb. 14, a “marche blanche” — white march — took place in the center of Bordeaux in protest of pesticides following a two-hour French television documentary, viewed by 3 million, based on a leaked government database identifying the iconic wine region as one of the highest in pesticide use.
Hair samples of children from schools in the Gironde identified the presence of 40 dangerous chemicals. This comes on the heels of statistics showing that leukemia among children there is 20 percent higher than the French national average. In the premier sweet wine region of Sauternes, a whopping 500 percent higher!
Napa County has 22.8 children cancer deaths per 100,000 — a 69 percent rise between 2000 and 2012 — the highest in California and the second highest for adults with 488.9. Popular use pesticides have been linked to cancer, leukemia, kidney disease, Parkinson’s and more. Napa County had 115 breast cancer cases and 20 deaths in 2014.
When will we Napa residents wake up?
According to industry reports, 20 similar pesticide agents are used in Bordeaux, Napa and Sonoma.
The California Legislature has enacted AB289/AB947 (Jackson), known as the Pesticide School Protection Zone Act, designed to protect schools from pesticide drift. We can all guess why Napa County has not followed its recommendations.
Though such data are not new, Napa county policies on these life and death issues, rather than mitigate, continue to exacerbate the problems.
Its promotion of more and more visitors (200,000 more annually over the past two years) who, along with the tens of thousands of low-paid commuters both the wine and hospitality industries employ, are major contributors to carbon emissions with their cars moving at a snail’s pace in what has become an urban-like environment.
Mining and asphalt recycling operations at Syar spew carcinogen crystalline silica particles into the air, which drift Upvalley each and every morning with the inflow of the San Francisco Bay fog. Yet, the county is seriously considering its expansion, all in the proximity of no fewer than nine schools — never mind AB947 — and one hospital. Incredible as it is, in order to accommodate it, all new residences near Syar, including several hundred at Napa Pipe will be required to install 2.5 micron air-filtration systems. Opening windows if at all possible or outdoor activities, will be at one’s own risk. Have we lost all sanity?
There are over 50 pending applications in the county for new wineries and winery expansions totaling 567,000 new visitors and 2.9 million gallons of wine, which according to the 75 percent rule, will require 6,000 more acres of Napa vineyards, all in the watershed areas in the hills as the valley floor is already planted. With them come more deforestation, car emissions, pesticides and vineyard burns. Remember, three out of four weeks in January 2014 were declared no-burn days.
Our watershed replenishes our wells and the aquifer from which we all drink and irrigate. From there the pesticides find their way into our produce, and animals. They accumulate ever so little by little in our systems until one day we get the news no one wants to hear.
Geothermal discharges, antimony and arsenic end up in the Napa River from overburdened sewage disposal infrastructures starting as far upriver as Calistoga. Yet, hospitality development is proceeding full steam to accommodate the ever-increasing demand solely fueled by county visitor policies. The Water Quality Board has been fining Calistoga year after year, ordering it to mitigate its violations. In the meantime, many families will face tragedy.
Waiting to isolate the specific causes of our unenviable cancer record from study to study is only a way to provide cover to our officials for not doing what we all know they need to do: Instead of accommodating the proliferation of pollutants, they must enact policies that will reduce them. All of them. Now!
In a Feb. 10 town hall meeting, Councilman Pedroza told the public that he is for “balance.” When asked what he meant by balance, he said that there is a point beyond which growth disturbs the balance. Overuse of our infrastructure, traffic gridlock may be tolerated by some as inconvenience, but not cancer.
Mr. Pedroza’s pro-growth voting record does not reflect the rhetoric. As the chair of the Board of Supervisors he has the opportunity to take the lead in changing direction. When the next of 50 applications for increased wine production and visitations (about two per week!) comes before his appointed planning commissioner or before himself on appeal, we will see if action will reflect sincerity.