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Hundreds of Children Exposed to Pesticide in US

Recently in a school in California a foul mist drifted onto the playground from the adjacent orange groves and a couple of children collapsed in spasms , vomiting on the blacktop.

Apparently hundreds of school children in many agricultural states have been exposed to farm chemicals, leading to sickness, brain damage and birth defects.

Though there are no federal laws specifically against spraying near schools, and advocates say California and the seven other states that have laws or policies creating buffer zones around schools to protect them from pesticides don't do enough to enforce them.

"The regulations are inadequate. In the vast majority of cases, people who didn't follow the laws received at best a $400 fine," said Margaret Reeves, a scientist with the Pesticide Action Network, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco.

The pesticide industry says it is committed to safety, and regulators say they are doing their best to enforce the laws.

"Everyone wants to protect children," said California Department of Pesticide Regulation spokesman Glenn Brank. He said his agency is doing what it can to enforce the law with a shortage of agricultural inspectors.

In the case of the incident reported earlier, county agricultural inspectors never swabbed the jungle gym or took grass samples, making it impossible to establish whether pesticide had, in fact, drifted onto the playground.

The Environmental Protection Agency does not keep comprehensive national figures on students and teachers sickened by drifting pesticide.

In California, the No. 1 farm state and the one with the best records, there were 590 pesticide-related illnesses at schools from 1996 to 2005. More than a third of those were due to pesticide drift, the figures show. Activists say that those numbers are low and that many cases are never even reported.

In California's long, flat interior, spraying season
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