Pesticide exposure can lead to serious medical consequences, so it's important to take all incidents seriously and immediately seek medical attention. In addition to affecting people, when pesticides drift from their intended targets they can damage ecosystems, pets and wildlife, and cause economic harm by contaminating crops and poisoning livestock. It is important that all drift incidents are promptly reported, even if no damage is apparent.
If pesticides drift onto you or your neighbors, you should:
- Evacuate the area, warn your neighbors and seek medical attention.
- If you were hit with spray drift (droplets or dust particles) that contacted your skin, shower as soon after exposure as you can.
- If you experience any symptoms of pesticide exposure, immediately see a doctor or call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 .
- Call for help. Once you are in a safe location, notify the appropriate authorities of the incident (see below). If you feel your life is in danger, call 911.
Always Report Pesticide Drift
Regardless of whether people were directly exposed to pesticide drift or any ecological damage or economic harm is immediately visible, it’s important to promptly report every drift incident to the agency responsible for pesticide enforcement. The appropriate agency varies by state, but it is typically the office of the County Agricultural Commissioner.
You should report the incident to both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and to your state agency:
- The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) will report pesticide incidents to the U.S. EPA. Call 1-800-858-7378 from 8:00AM - 12:00PM PST.
- Each state has an agency for reporting pesticide. Find your state on the NPIC webpage, and call the appropriate agency to have them record a report.
In California, calling 1-877-378-5463 should connect you with the appropriate office. If you seek medical attention, be sure to tell the doctor that pesticides are involved or suspected. In addition to helping the doctor diagnose and treat you, this will ensure that the incident is counted in official tallies, since many states require doctors and veterinarians to report cases of suspected pesticide poisoning incidents to the state.
It’s important to notify authorities as soon as possible, and to ask for a formal investigation and pesticide sampling on affected properties. This is because pesticide residue can degrade quickly, and samples should be taken as soon as possible if they are yield conclusive results. Write down all of the details of the exposure before you forget anything, including the time and date of the incident, what happened that led to the exposure, and the location of the application site and neighboring buildings.
- Pesticide Drift issue brief, from PAN
- Pesticide Drift, from California's Department of Pesticide Regulation
- Deriva de los Pesticidas (En Español), from California's Department of Pesticide Regulation
- Community Action Guide, from Californians for Pesticide Reform
The Drift Catcher
In our work with communities on the ground, PAN leases or sells Drift Catchers to select groups. If you need advice on alternative ways to detect drift, please click here. You can also contact us. For a list of pesticides the Drift Catcher can detect, please click here.
There is a commitment involved in conducting a Drift Catching study as a PAN community partner:
Driftcatching takes people, time, and money
While the Drift Catcher is simple to use, there is a time investment involved with taking samples and running the study, so it is best to have a group from your community working together. Anyone participating in Drift Catching studies must attend a training so that they can be certified in using the Drift Catcher. Group members must also be available to take samples when pesticide applications are occurring in the area.
The Drift Catcher is leased on a yearly basis to community groups. PAN selects these groups based on our current campaign goals. Leasing costs for the Drift Catcher are $200 per year. Sample analysis costs are high, typically ranging from $125-$255 per sample. PAN may be able to help you find funding, or provide some support.
PAN often works with communities in the Midwest and California, but has partnered with groups from other areas in the past. Examples of previous Drift Catching projects include:
- Communities in Illinois
- Communities in Iowa
- Communities in Minnesota
- Hastings, FL
- Hawai'i SEED
- Sisquoc, CA
- Tehama, CA