How To Avoid Pesticide Drift in Your Organic Garden

Staff scientist Emily Marquez of the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) addresses how to take action against pesticide drift by: alerting the National Pesticide Information Center, filing reports, and using the “Drift Catcher.”

Photo by Getty Images/humonia

Question: I’m trying to garden organically, but I’m concerned about pesticide drift. How can I tell whether drift is affecting my property, and what can I do about it? — Blair Gordon

Emily Marquez: Pesticides do indeed “drift” and damage plants in neighboring areas. If the drifting chemical is an herbicide, then you may notice damage to plants, including loss of foliage, yellowing vegetation at the wrong time of year, twisted or downward-cupped leaves, or damage occurring only on certain portions of leaves. Symptoms of human acute exposure to pesticides include: headaches, difficulty breathing, or skin irritation. But there are ways to take action. Start by documenting the problem, if possible.                  

Then, file a report with both the National Pesticide Information Center and the lead pesticide or public health agency in your state, and press for an immediate investigation. To inquire about what pesticide was sprayed — and by whom — contact your state pesticide regulatory agency, which you can find at NPIC. Join, or start a community group to address pesticide drift in your area.

Scientists within the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) have been working nationally with communities to implement an easy-to-use tool called the “Drift Catcher” for monitoring airborne pesticides, and to demand policy changes. Contact PAN to learn more about this device at its website.

Emily Marquez is a PAN staff scientist who works with community partners using the PAN Drift Catcher.

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