Helping Our Peninsula's Environment


Monterey County Deadly Pesticide Use

(c) Copyright 2002 David Dilworth


"Monterey County had more pesticide-related illnesses than any other California County in 2000." - Monterey Herald lead headline March 8, 2002

  • In Monterey County some 428 cases of human pesticide poisoning were reported to public officials during a six year period into the early 1990s. Fifty (50!) cases of human pesticide poisoning were reported in Monterey County in 1996.


What this does not show is the number of pesticide poisonings that are never reported because victims and even doctors are not trained to recognize the myriad symptoms from the toxic cocktail of pesticides sprayed into the air of Monterey County every year.


Pesticides by definition, intent, design and use are deadly to kill animal and plant life.

  • Almost all pesticides kill unintended human, wildlife and plant victims.
  • Some pesticides have multi-generational impacts - your exposure could harm your grandchildren.
  • In the words of the US-EPA "Pesticides are not 'safe.' They are produced and used specifically because they are toxic to something."


"As many as 67,000 cases of human pesticide poisoning occur worldwide each year, some of which are fatal." Environmental Science; Morgan, Moran & Weirsma; W.C. Brown Pub. 1993, p 178 "Somewhere between 400,000 and 2 million people suffer from acute pesticide poisoning every year: between 10,000 and 40,000 of them die." World Wildlife Fund, 1990


Pesticides have many toxic effects on humans and wildlife beyond simple toxicity, and cancer causing effects.

We know that pesticides do immediate harm to individuals and then some pesticides transform into other less harmful chemicals. However, some pesticides called Endocrine Disrupters, literally threaten us humans as a species. Endocrine Disrupters interfere with our central development system, our Hormone system, and pass on the damage to our children and our grandchildren. These are called intergenerational impacts. For more information on this topic see the award winning book "Our Stolen Future."


  • While we acknowledge the importance of preserving the Salinas Valley Flood Plain for agricultural land for food, we are very seriously concerned about the amount and toxicity of pesticides and fertilizers used.
  • Agriculture can be, and is, conducted at a profit without pesticides.
  • Agriculture can be, and is conducted, at a profit by halving the amount of (very expensive) pesticides used.

Golf Courses

  • We find the use of pesticides on our Peninsula's 15 golf courses simply unacceptable because of their deadly known and unknown impacts.
  • San Francisco's Presidio Golf Course is managed entirely without pesticides.

Map of Monterey County Pesticide use

Since the 1940s the amount of pesticides used has skyrocketed yet the percent of agriculture products lost to pests has stayed about the same - 25% to 35%.

The Rising Tide of Toxins: Pesticide Use in California by James Liebman Global Pesticide Campaigner, Volume 7, Number 3, September 1997. Pesticide Action Network North America, San Francisco, CA states "The largest percentage increase in reported pesticide use (in California Counties) during this period took place in Monterey County, which saw an increase from 7 million to almost 13 million pounds, representing an 85% increase."

This 10 - 13 million pounds of County Pesticide per year does not include -

  • Inert ingredients and impurities in pesticides - which can amount to 99 percent of the product. The total amount of pesticides applied is easily 20 million pounds and possibly much more. Impurities can constitute up to 15 percent of the pesticide product or more and be even deadlier and more persistent pesticides.
  • Home pesticide use which can include deadly pesticides banned from industrial use
  • School pesticide use.
  • Cal-Trans pesticide use along roadsides.
  • Forest Service pesticide use which includes spraying diesel fuel on forests!
  • It should include Golf Course pesticide use, which is typically a thousand pounds per course per year in Monterey County, but there is zero accountability in the system (literally no one verifies the products and amounts used) and the use of these deadly chemicals can (and seems to) easily go unreported.



Moss Landing Harbor has the highest concentrations of DDT in its harbor bottom of anywhere in California. The Pajaro River bordering Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties also has high levels of DDT.

  • Monterey County industry generated 572 tons of pesticide waste in 1986 and was projected to generate 540 tons in 2000. Monterey County Hazardous Waste management Plan 1989 p 5
  • We need a County program recognizing the uses of hazardous materials, mapping their current and former (and still deadly) uses and prepare a plan to fully avoid, mitigate and genuinely clean up their harmful impacts on humans and wildlife.

Monterey County Health Department admits they don't even keep a list of pesticides used on golf courses built before 1997 and they don't track liquid or solid poison use of less than 100 pounds.

Monterey County Health Department admits they have NOT tested the watercourses adjacent to golf courses including the Carmel River or any stream in Pebble Beach for each pesticide.

  • We need a program to test the watercourses adjacent to golf courses including the Carmel River and all streams in Pebble Beach for each pesticide used in that watershed.
  • We need a program requiring Monterey County Health Department to keep a list of pesticides used on golf courses built before 1997 and to track liquid and solid poison use of less than 100 pounds.


There are about 630 different "active ingredients" in pesticides worldwide. In real-world use, these main ingredients are combined with other chemicals (some are called "inert ingredients") to make several thousand toxic formulations -- but the basic active ingredients number about 630. In 1992 4.5 Billion pounds of pesticides were used in the U.S. which is about 18 pounds per person.

Approximately 1,050 of the secret ingredients are considered "inerts of unknown toxicity." EPA does not require testing to determine their toxicity. "EPA has found approximately 40 "inert ingredients" to be of toxicological concern after testing them and has determined that approximately 65 others are potentially toxic." "More than two thousand inert ingredients are used in pesticides however, and most of them have not been tested by EPA or evaluated for toxicity." NCAMP v. EPA 941 F.Supp 197, 198 (1996)

Approximately 40 of the "inert" ingredients are known to cause cancer, nerve damage, other chronic effects, or adverse reproductive effects. These "inerts" include asbestos, carbon tetrachloride (banned as an active pesticide ingredient), and trichloroethylene. In 1987, EPA indicated these inerts must be listed on the pesticide label, but there is no evidence that EPA enforces this policy. All the other 1,400 or so inert ingredients do not have to be listed on pesticide labels.

Approximately 65 of the secret ingredients are classified "potentially toxic inerts/high priority for testing" because their chemical structure or existing data suggest toxicity. These "inerts" include xylene, cresols, and methyl bromide (a highly toxic fumigant and neurotoxin).

  • We need a County program on the use of all pesticides in our County analyzing and avoiding or fully mitigating the complete deadly health impacts on humans and wildlife.

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This Page Last Updated 7/1/02