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Pesticide Drift

Incidents of Pesticide Drift

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also see pesticide fact sheets/dicamba, and Legal/litigationemergencies

Webinar: When Pesticide Drift Happens To You (PANNA, 28 August 2023)     While the webinar had an Iowa focus, much of the content is applicable throughout the United States.  This three and a half hour webinar can be viewed here in its entirety.

Dicamba Symptomology Community Science Monitoring Report  (Dan Scheiman, Ph.D. Bird Conservation Director Audubon Arkansas , November 9, 2020)  13 minutes video. Audubon and volunteers found dicamba poisoning symptoms on native plant in 343 locations across counties in Arkansas including all species in forest reserves, state parks, as well as fields. If a nearby source of dicamba use is not identified, inspectors conclude there is no violation and there is no recourse by the damaged parties, including homeowners. In some counties, all crops not being dicamba resistant were damaged. There may not be much vegetation of any tyoe. that will survive in these areas besides dicamba-resistant crops. Just imagine the effects on birds and the rest of the environment... SNAP Comment: Dicamba has now been added to some glyphosate formulations to control glyphosate-resistant weeds. The issue is that dicamba is extremely volatile, and that glyphosate makes it even more so, resulting in widepsread damage to crops, gardens and trees. 

Pesticide Drift or Chemical Trespass Continue Uncontrolled, Despite Successful Litigation     (Beyond Pesticides, March 18, 2022) A 2020 lawsuit related to pesticide drift was resolved on March 8, 2022 in San Joaquin (California) Superior Court with the finding that Alpine Helicopter Services, which specializes in pesticide applications for government and tourism entities, had violated pesticide drift laws and endangered public health and safety. The court further found Alpine liable for damage related to its actions, though penalties in the case, brought by California state prosecutors and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), have yet to be determined. The case exposes a handful of the many instances of pesticide drift, also known as “chemical trespass,” that occur every year in the U.SSNAP Comment: Almost every year, I get calls from people whose property was affected by pesticide drift. Some were in urban settings, others on the farm. Trying to fight these battles in court is difficult and leaves victims exhausted and, generally, To establish damages, one needs to calculate the cost of everything lost or having to be sold at a lower price (i.e. organic versus conventional). This could include veterinary costs for replacement cost for livestock. It has been close to impossible to 'prove'  or cost health effects. 

Fighting Chemical Trespass   (Beyond Pesticides 2021 conference, Mar 5, 2022) Panel discussion, 1 hour video. Practical life examples, difficulties of proving damage.  Link to background documents including 

What to Do in a Pesticide Emergency
Dicamba Symptomology Community Science Monitoring Report 13 min. video
NOP Instruction: Responding to Results from Pesticide Testing
Chemical Trespass Report
Dicamba: Drifting Towards Disaster - Presented by Dan Scheiman PhD

Toxic Drift (Christopher Pala, Earth Ilsnad Journal, winter 2020)    Most doctors would not recognize the symptoms of a pesticide poisoning...........most of us have no idea when this has happened......"Krista and Erik Maxson, who moved in next door in August 2018 from Mammoth Lakes, California, with their two toddlers, described similar symptoms: sore throats, swollen glands, constant migraines, and exhaustion. “It’s pretty intense,” Krista, 32, said in an interview at her Kamalani house in January. “I’ve never seen that before.” She said a “weird chemical smell” would sometimes waft into her son’s bedroom, on the Monsanto farm side of the house, usually just before dawn....  The Maxons moved back to Mammoth Lakes this past fall. “Erik was/is still constantly ill,” Krista wrote recently in an e-mail, with “severe throat pain (he can barely talk) and he feels as though his body is not normal…, very weak and getting worse.” Her daughter, she added, “is having a reaction in her hands and throat as well.”    'Despite research showing correlations between proximity to GMO fields and higher rates of cancer and birth defects, for years state officials took no significant action on the issue of pesticide drift. .. the tide seemed to turn last year when Hawai‘i passed the first state law significantly regulating the companies’ spraying....GROWING COMPLAINTS ABOUT health problems from inhaled pesticides eventually led to a lawsuit in 2011 by more than 100 residents of a neighborhood in Waimea, Kauai, against DuPont Pioneer. In the lawsuit’s discovery process, the company was forced to release several years of detailed records — a first peek into a highly secretive industry. These were submitted by the plaintiffs to several experts, whose reports, so far unpublished, were obtained by the Journal....Michael DiBartolomeis, a Hawai‘i-based toxicologist, wrote that Pioneer “applied an average of 22.2 pounds of pesticides per acre for the three-year span” for which data was provided. “Pioneer has used 82 or more pesticide products containing 63 or more active ingredients representing 34 different chemical classes.” The ingredients, he added, “cause a myriad of health effects in experimental animals from repeated exposures,” including cancer and birth defects, damage to the reproductive, endocrine, immune, and nervous systems,” and to the “liver, kidney, blood, stomach, and skin.”'t

Adverse Impacts of Pesticide Drift in Pineapple Production (Beyond Pesticides, December 12, 2018) 'Recent studies in Costa Rica identified evidence of increasing fur discoloration in black mantled howler monkeys ((Alouatta palliata) as a result of their exposure to sulfur-based pesticides.'  'In addition to altered pigmentation, excessive exposure often results in sensitivity to light, skin irritation and cancer. In addition to pigmentation bleaching, the use of pesticides in this region have adversely impacted surrounding communities resulting in increased incidences of epithelial damage, gastrointestinal issues, nervous system disorders, eye irritations and birth defects." 

Crop Damage from Monsanto’s Herbicide Dicamba Being Investigated in 17 States, Pointing to New Formulation Used in GE Fields  (Beyond Pesticides, August 8, 2017) More than 1,400 official complaints of crop damage related to the herbicide dicamba have been recorded across 17 states this year, leading some to question a new formulation of the chemical used in genetically engineered (GE) fields. Dicamba, a toxic pesticide prone to drift off the target site, has been used in agriculture for decades. However, new GE crops developed by Monsanto must be paired with specific formulations of dicamba, and until now many believed these drift incidents were the result of illegal formulations of dicamba being applied to fields. But the extent of damage now being observed, covering over 2.5 million acres, is casting doubt on this theory, and raising more questions as to whether the new dicamba formulation is actually the cause of the widespread drift damage. Fruits and vegetables, as well as other crops that are not genetically engineered to tolerate dicamba are often left cupped and distorted when exposed to the chemical. Prairiesun Organic chemical Trespass Report gives an idea of the process and difficulty to 'prove' damages. (South Dakota)   SNAP Comments: Last year, the incidents were due to illegal formulations used because the dicamba-resistant crops were put on the market before  the "less volatile" new formulations were approved for use. Looks like the new ones are no better.... Remember that all most chemical lawn herbicide formulations contin dicama as one of 3 active ingredients. 

Laws Governing Drift

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Current regulations fail to define pesticide drift to include all forms of drift. The Canadian PMRA, as well as the U.S. EPA currently defines drift as the airborne, offsite movement of pesticides that occurs during and immediately after application. Yet PANNA's detailed analysis of monitoring data shows that, for volatile pesticides, the bulk of off-site movement occurs as pesticides volatilize after application (see figures in above reference and Secondhand Pesticides, Figure 3-1).

Spray drift, which is drift of particles and vapors that occurs during pesticide applications, is poorly regulated by current state and federal laws and regulations.
Post-application drift, which can occur for many days after an application, is barely regulated at all and is not acknowledged by U.S. or Canada, although apparently recognized since 1997 by Sask Agriculture and the PMRA-  (as seen above under Saskatchewan. Before the PMRA moved to Health Canada it was under Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Dr Wolf now works for the PMRA

CanadaInformation Note: Pesticide Spray Drift in Residential Areas  This document indicates that the PMRA does not adequately adress drift.This is the PMRA page accessed on May 5, 2010. Statements on spray drift is based on assumptions of proper use of pesticide products according to directions and only considers drift during application. Unfortunately, there is no ongoing Canadian or SK inspections of spray events of individuals, commercial applicators or farmers. A statement such as : "Although some pesticides can have strong odour that may be disagreeable, the odour itself is not harmful and tends to dissipate quickly." has no value for safety assessment . What is important is what in the formulation causes the odor, how toxic it is, how volatile the pesticide formulation is and how much active ingredient it contains. The latter will depend on the size of particles of the pesticide active ingredient itself, formulants used, spray equipment, and environmental conditions such as wind, heat and humidity. The PMRA statement also does not recognize the measurable daily cycle of evaporation off all sprayed surfaces (post-application or evaporation drift). This document indicates that the PMRA does not adequately adress drift.


U.S. steps to control drift

Illinois takes "baby steps" to reduce drift The voluntary initiative asks organic growers, beekeepers and others to register the locations of their lands with the website, and has the support of the state's agrichemical industry, which hopes to avoid any new, mandatory regulations ( PanUps Feb 26, 2010) Scroll down.

How much protection from drift is there in SK?

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Driftwatch  Saskatchewan voluntary crop site registry.  'This DriftWatch registry tool is meant to help pesticide applicators and specialty crop growers communicate more effectively to promote awareness and stewardship activities to help prevent and manage drift effects.' Interactive maps are available for many US states and Saskatchewan 

Sask Agriculture recognizes spray drift (as we see below) and that dangerous vapours can be produced even from dry deposit. However the introduction states: "Reports of spray drift in the mass media are damaging to the farming community and pesticide applicators, as they imply a lack of stewardship or environmental friendliness of farming practices." and "It is relatively easy to minimize drift by using a coarser spray. However, the primary reason for the spraying operation is to control the target pest, and this goal should not be compromised." (under 'Droplet Size and Efficacy') This seems to clearly set the priorities.

Spray Drift - Causes and Solutions  (Last Update: April 1997) SK agriculture. Written by: Dr. Tom Wolf, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the same Tom Wolf who was heading the pesticide bylaw subcommittee of the Saskatoon Environmental Advisory Committee (SEAC) when they made a quick turn-around and chose not to support a pesticide bylaw for Saskatoon. More information on this issue is available from Sandra Finley at 2004-04-10 Tom Wolf, Health Canada scientist threatens to sue me. Response - the mafia uses threat of broken bones.
  • Self-propelled high clearance sprayers can travel at speeds up to 35 km/h (22 mph). Faster travel speeds cause a finer, more drift-prone spray to be produced, which stays in the air longer. The net result is a finer spray more exposed to winds that can move it off-target. 
  • Research tests have confirmed that faster travel speeds increase drift, even when applied with a coarser spray (Figure 4). 
  • "Some herbicides and insecticides are prone to vapour drift and can seriously hurt animals and humans. Vapour drift can occur even when there is no particle (droplet) drift, and even dry spray deposits can send vapours into the atmosphere." 
  • "Vapour drift increases with air temperature, therefore the application of volatile products should be avoided on, or just preceding, hot days."
  • It is also recognized that: 'At no or very low wind speeds, the drift cloud can move in an unpredictable direction and cause damage.'


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also see soils and fact sheets/dicamba and neonicotinoids formulants/inerts 

Chemicals Added to Herbicides to Reduce Drift Actually Drift Themselves, Are Significant Air Pollutants  (Beyond Pesticides, November 2, 2022) Inert ingredients called “amines” that are added to pesticides in attempts to reduce drift and volatility are themselves highly volatile and may represent a significant source of air pollution, according to research recently published in Environmental Science and Technology.   Large quantities of herbicide-amine mixtures are being sprayed onto crops across the country... Amines are chemical compounds derived from ammonia and often added to herbicide formulations for glyphosate, dicamba, and 2,4-D products to increase solubility and reduce volatilization. In theory, amines reduce volatilization by forming herbicide-amine salts which lock the herbicide vapors in place.   Researchers conducted an experiment measuring amine and herbicide losses from herbicide-amine salts...Generally, more amines than herbicide residues were lost during the drying process, but this shifted slightly under higher temperatures. With increasing heat, researchers found both higher amine releases, and evidence of increased herbicide volatility, reinforcing earlier studies.   With half of glyphosate, 44% of 2,4-D, and nearly 90% of dicamba use employing an amine-based product formulation, the study estimates that herbicide use releases approximately 4,000 metric tons of amines in the US annually. When considering the use of these herbicides in other countries, as US applications account for only roughly 12% of global use, herbicide amine emissions can be compared to the 285,000 metric tons of amines globally recorded as released into the atmosphere each year from other sources, such as industrial manufacturing and livestock emissions.   Despite their listing as an “inert” ingredient, amines are toxicologically active substancesOnce present in the atmosphere, amine vapors oxidize and form nitrosamines and nitroamines, which are potent carcinogens. Their release and transformation in the atmosphere likewise results in the creation of fine particulate matter that can affect heart and lung health.

Dicamba Herbicide Poses Greater Threat of Drift when Mixed with Glyphosate   (Beyond Pesticides, July 18, 2019) 'During a 60-hour window, scientists applied various GE dicamba products (Clarity and XtendiMax) over a range of temperatures and took air samples. As temperatures increased, so did the volatilization and drift of dicamba, even in formulations touted as “low volatility.”'  'Adding glyphosate to the mixture produced stark results, increasing concentrations of dicamba in the air up to nine times compared to dicamba alone... and research finds that even trace amounts of dicamba in the air, levels in the parts per million, can damage non-resistant crops.' SNAP Comment: This research illustrates another failure of the US and Canadian regulatory system. This interaction was totally missed by only requiring testing these pesticides separately even though they are used in formulation.

New evidence of pesticides in Calgary air, soil  (Bridget Brown, CTV Calgary,  June 10, 2015) 'An environmental testing facility has found pesticides that are expected to dissipate in a matter of days persisting in Calgary’s soil and air for months after lawn and garden season has ended.  2,4 D is supposed to have a half-life in the order of two weeks,” he says, “and the last application of 2,4D would be the previous fall. and yet in April, we find it.”'  The team also found  atrazine and Dicamba. 'The amount of Dicamba exceeded provincially regulated safe levels.'   SNAP COMMENT: I hope the lab is still in business and the scientist still employed

Quantifying vapor drift of dicamba herbicides applied to soybean
(WeedsNews4137 | December 20, 2012)

Pesticide DRIFT Types of drift, science and policy, stories and action including how to measure. DriftCatcher results. Before ordering a drift catcher, check if it will be effective for the pesticide you want to monitor. (PANNA)

Pesticide Drift is not only responsible for damaged crops, but also of many incidents of pesticide exposure and/or poisoning both of agricultural workers and residents in the surrounding area.

How Dangerous Is Pesticide Drift? (Scientific American, Sept 17, 2012)

What is pesticide drift?

"Pesticide drift is any airborne movement of pesticides away from the intended target site, including droplets, dusts, volatilized vapor-phase pesticides, and pesticide-contaminated soil particlesDrift can occur both during and for many days, weeks, and even months after pesticide application. It can be very noticeable as a cloud of pesticide spray or dust or an unpleasant odor during the application. It can also be insidious—invisible to the eye, undetectable to the nose, but still capable of causing illness. As with secondhand cigarette smoke, these secondhand pesticides can cause significant adverse health impacts even at low levels. Drift is forced on others against their will and often without their knowledge."

"New analysis of pesticide drift in this report reveals that several widely used pesticides are regularly found far from their application sites at concentrations that significantly exceed acute and chronic exposure levels deemed “safe” by regulatory agencies. Virtually everywhere pesticides are used, they drift away from their intended target and can persist for days and even months after application."  

"U.S. EPA is required to assess all routes of pesticide exposure (food, water, air, and other) when it reevaluates a pesticide. However, it routinely dismisses second hand exposures from post-application drift as unimportant for non-fumigant pesticides, even though it has not yet evaluated California’s extensive set of air monitoring data that demonstrates the scope of the problem. Even for the highly volatile fumigants, risks from vapor drift have only been
evaluated for a single pesticide, Telone."
 The same is true of the Canadian Pest Management Registration Agency ( PMRA)

PAN Drift Catcher has been developed to allow the public to monitor instances of pesticide drift. However, it only works for some types of pesticides. It is worth checking with PANNA to see if you could use it.

Getting the Drift on Chemical Trespass Pesticide drift hits homes, schools and other sensitive sites throughout communities By Kagan Owens and Jay Feldman ( Beyond Pesticides, 2004)

Pesticide Drift Archives (Beyond Pesticides)

Second-Hand Pesticides: Airborne Pesticide Drift in California.(Californians for Pesticide Reform; report available on PANNA site)  Drifting pesticides can travel for miles, resulting in widespread toxic air pollution. In indoor environments, vaporized pesticides can persist for weeks after an application, concentrating in the air closest to the floor -- where children spend more of their time -- and condensing on plastic items such as children's toys. Pesticide drift causes acute poisonings and chronic illness, with children most at risk. The volatile pesticides PANNA studied include several fumigants, as well and the organo-phosphorous insecticide chlorpyrifosdiazinon, and the thiocarbamate herbicide molinate  the latter not licensed in Canada). Chlorpyrifos evaporates so easily that it is considered as a volatile organic compound in California. Chlorpyrifos is commonly used in SK agriculture under the trade name Lorsban

Driftwatch  Saskatchewan voluntary crop site registry.  'This DriftWatch registry tool is meant to help pesticide applicators and specialty crop growers communicate more effectively to promote awareness and stewardship activities to help prevent and manage drift effects.' Interactive maps are available for many US states and Saskatchewan