Pesticides are designed to kill insects, fungi, and weeds, but many are harmful to human health and the environment as well. Some pesticides have been linked to long-term health problems such as cancer, reproductive problems, and neurological damage; others can cause acute toxic poisoning. Moreover, extensive research has demonstrated that nontoxic alternatives to pesticides are available for almost every pest problem, meaning that the use of these harmful pesticides is usually an unnecessary risk.
The dramatic population growth in the Bay Area in recent years has led to housing developments directly adjacent to agricultural land, orchards, golf courses, and other areas heavily treated with pesticides. Residents of these developments may be subject to pesticide drift from applications on nearby land. Other Bay Area residents live on land previously laced with pesticides. Population density and increased pesticide use are therefore combining to increase exposure risks, particularly in Santa Clara, Sonoma, Marin, Napa, and San Mateo counties.
The sharp decline in pesticide use in San Francisco County should be evidence for the rest of the Bay Area that pesticide use can be slashed, protecting both public health and the environment.