FERN story on pesticides wins health-reporting award

“Fields of toxic pesticides surround the schools of Ventura County,” by Liza Gross, won third place in the investigative category for smaller circulation news organizations in the Association of Health Care Journalists‘ annual Awards of Excellence contest.

The story, published by The Nation in partnership with FERN, found that Latino communities in California were disproportionately dosed with pesticides for years, and that state officials knew this was the case. Gross compared pesticide applications records with ZIP codes to learn 29 million pounds of pesticide, more than half of the state total, were applied in just 5 percent of the ZIP codes.

“In two ZIP codes, applications of these toxic pesticides, which were already among the highest in the state, rose between 61 percent and 84 percent from 2007 to 2012. These two areas—among ten ZIP codes with the highest use of these pesticides in California—are 70 percent Latino, mostly due to the large number of farm jobs in the area,” said AHCJ. Gross wrote in her story, “Ventura County had more schools and more students—over 13,000—attending classes within a quarter-mile of areas most heavily treated with potentially harmful pesticides than any other county in the state.”