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Farmers likely spray pesticides near elementary schools in the Mountain West

A tractor spraying a green farm field with pesticides during the evening sunlight.
Aqua Mechanical
Flickr Creative Commons
Some chemicals from pesticides sprayed by farmers, as seen here, have been linked to cancer and other health problems, according to the nonpartisan Environmental Working Group.

A new report shows thousands of elementary schools across the U.S. are near farms likely sprayed with pesticides linked to cancer and other health problems. That includes hundreds of schools in the Mountain West.

Nationwide, there are more than 4,000 schools within just 200 feet of where farmers may be spraying pesticides, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Environmental Working Group.

In the Mountain West, farms are that distance – about the length of a hockey rink – from 384 elementary schools. More than a quarter of those schools are in Utah (94). That’s followed by Colorado (79), Idaho (73), New Mexico (73), Wyoming (42) and Nevada (23).

In most states, local and state laws restrict when farmers can spray pesticides near schools, said Alex Formuzis of the Environmental Working Group.

But that could change.

“There’s an effort in Congress, led by some House GOP members, to include language in the next farm bill, which Congress has to reauthorize by the end of this year, that would preempt state and local pesticide laws,” Formuzis said.

That would allow farms to spray pesticides whenever they want, he said, adding that the lawmakers pushing the proposal represent big agriculture districts.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The first photo included in this story is licensed under Flickr Creative Commons.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.
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