Hidden Pesticide Exposures

One of the factors I talk about a lot on this website and blog is how crucial it is to avoid environmental toxins to maintain physical and emotional health, with pesticides and herbicides being at the very top of the list. However, I often mention the fact that even when you do everything in your power to achieve this goal, it is not always that easy.

A couple weeks ago I had an event that really angers me and illustrates this point quite clearly. I live in the desert mountains of Southern California, mainly to avoid exposures from herbicides and pesticides, because my liver simply can’t detox them from my body and they completely incapacitate me.

I live at the end of a dead end road where there is very little traffic, so when I see an unfamiliar vehicle in the neighborhood, it is quite noticeable. It was a mild day about 60 and so I was doing some things in the yard and had my door and one window open, when I noticed a small truck seemed to be making stops at various spots around the neighborhood. I kept my eye on it and saw it pull up to my neighbors and do something around the electric pole with a transformer on it. I saw they had rakes and something that looked like a weed eater.

They moved on to my next neighbor and I walked to the edge of my yard to see who it was and saw that the side of the truck said it was Southern California Edison. So I thought I had nothing to fear, but I was a little concerned that they had rakes and that indicates yard work and yard work sometimes indicates herbicides, so I kept an eye on them.

A few minutes later they pull in my yard and haul out there tools and start walking towards my electric pole. I went out and asked them what they were doing and they said they were just cleaning around the poles. I started to walk away and then I noticed the weed eater tool didn’t look quite right and I said, “you aren’t spraying any chemicals are you?” and he said, “yes, just this stuff to kill the grass.” I told him “don’t spray that stuff here or I could die” and he said okay and put it back in the truck. I asked him if he had sprayed it at my neighbors and he said yes.

I then had to hustle to get my door and windows shut and get in the house. I once lost almost all of my belongings, had to move and was so sick I couldn’t sleep for an entire year, because my neighbor used herbicide in their yard and it got in my house. My health has never fully recovered from that exposure. So, needless to say, I was quite worried.

The electric pole in my yard that they were about to spray sat about 40 feet away from my car and about 75 feet away from my house. If they had sprayed while my car was sitting there and my windows were open, I would have had to get rid of my car, may have had to move and would have been extremely sick. This could have been a very devastating experience for me physically and financially.

I think it really is a crime that a business can engage in such a reckless, irresponsible and destructive behavior without having to notify the public. There’s a total lack of regard for how their actions may impact others. It should be illegal to come on my property and disperse toxic chemicals. For the property around me, at a minimum, they should be required to notify in advance with a phone call.

Even though it wasn’t in my yard, I was still quite sick for two days afterwards. I had intense heart palpitations, trembling and a hyperactive brain that couldn’t sleep. I was fortunate that it passed in two days and didn’t linger for weeks.

A friend of mine who has a similar health problem with herbicides as well called Southern California Edison and asked them what they were doing. They informed her that they were spraying an herbicide called Diuron around all the power poles in all the cities, to prevent fires in case of a lightning strike. They told her that you can request not to have your pole sprayed by calling them and giving them the number that is on the metal plate on the pole. Since nobody informed us that this activity was going to occur, it was too late for me to do that.

I was too angry to call them at the time, but will have to do so in the near future when I cool off, so I can make sure this doesn’t happen again in the future.

This is really appalling. If you’ve ever been in the California desert, you would laugh because we don’t have anything that grows around the electric poles. If anything does grow, it is very sparse, short and low to the ground, that couldn’t possibly crawl up the trunk of the pole. What is there gets eaten pretty quickly by the rabbits.

Even if there were a little bit of weed growth around the pole, it would take about 1 minute to run a simple little tool called a hula hoe around it to remove them and there would be no need to expose all of us to neurotoxins. The hula hoe is a very effective and easy to use tool. Another choice is to simply bend down and weed by hand. It is an outrage that they would choose to spray toxins around the neighborhood instead, when there is absolutely no need.

Diuron is a wide spectrum herbicide. It is one of the most commonly used pesticides in the state of California. It is frequently used on the highway shoulder right-of-way, pipelines, railway lines, power lines, fence lines, electrical substations, around farm, industrial and commercial buildings, petroleum storage tanks, timber yards and storage areas. As well as landscape maintenance, ornamental ponds and fountains, irrigation and drainage systems and a wide variety of crops. The most prevalent use is on highway shoulders.

Because of this high level of usage, Diuron is one of the most commonly detected pesticides found in California’s surface water and ground water. It is found in more than half of the surface water samples analyzed and is regulated as a known ground water contaminant.

Diuron is considered a mobile and persistent pesticide. Depending on the dosage used at application, it can have a half life of anywhere between 90 days and as long as a year. It has been found to accumulate in the fat, muscle, liver and kidney of cattle and is toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates.

As I’ve shared with you before, herbicides and pesticides are powerful neurotoxins that damage the nervous system, immune system, reproductive system and endocrine system and overload and destroy the bodies detoxification pathways and organs. Because the body can’t detox these toxins out of our bodies, they accumulate inside us and wreck havoc on our health for years to come. They contribute to many debilitating physical and mental health conditions and should be avoided at all cost. As a society we should be finding ways to eliminate their use, and yet the pesticides and herbicide companies continue to flourish and subject us all unwillingly to the detrimental aftermath.

In all fairness, I would like to say that Diuron is considered a less toxic pesticide and has less tendency to volatilize in comparison to other choices. So overall, it appears that California has made some attempt to make the least toxic choice possible. Diruon is a much better choice than herbicides found in the organophosphate family. So that is encouraging, however a pesticide is a pesticide, and there are other ways these problems could be handled that would not expose us and the environment to these detrimental health risks.

Who decided that weeds were an enemy and should be eradicated? They have the right to live just like anything else, serve a purpose in the overall web of life and they aren’t even hurting anybody. For the most part, weed abatement occurs simply because weeds are considered unsightly. It’s totally unnecessary. In cases where it is necessary, such as to prevent a fire from a lightning strike they can easily be removed with a little physical labor. We have become so lazy as a society that many would rather use toxic chemicals than do some hard work that would not only be beneficial by avoiding exposures to toxins, but would also provide those on the work force with exercise and fresh air and cut down even more on conditions like obesity and heart disease. What is needed here is a simple change in mindset.

What angers me the most is that I have made a personal choice to protect myself from these toxins and yet my choice is violated. I am subjected without my consent. It’s getting harder and harder every day to avoid environmental toxins that have a negative impact on our health. Even when we clean up our personal space, those around us continually cross the boundary.

Another point that really angers me is the fact that the electric company seems to be intentionally concealing their behavior by administering the herbicide in a tool that looks like a weed eater. It looks harmless and you would never know that they were spraying a chemical. They know that many people get concerned and voice opposition to the spraying of pesticides so this is probably standard practice all around to keep us all unaware.

What we have learned here is that it is not only the electric company exposing us all to toxic herbicides and pesticides without our consent or notification on a regular basis, but so is the transportation department, the health department, parks, the state and local government, the forestry, farmers, industry etc. and we’re only talking about weed control in this article. This doesn’t even take into account other sources of exposure such as mosquito fogging, roach control, ant abatement, tree care, moth abatement, mold control and so on and so on that takes place in all public and government structures and environments.

When we take into account all the places that pesticides and herbicides are being used, it is frightening to think of the level of exposure we are subjected to on a daily basis. Although I am in the state of California you can be sure this behavior is occurring where you live as well. It’s a standard practice in all states. We all have numerous sources for hidden pesticide exposure we don’t know about that has a detrimental impact on our health and the environment.

Update February 2010

This year I called Southern California Edison the first week of January and asked them if they would be spraying herbicide on the poles in February like they did last year and they said they had already begun, but weren’t in my neighborhood yet. I explained to them that I have a health condition with my liver and that I get extremely ill when exposed to pesticides and asked them if they could call me in advance and let me know which week they would be arriving in my neighborhood so I could be sure to keep my windows shut and stay in the house.

Initially the man I spoke with tried to tell me that these pesticides were completely safe and I informed him that this was not true. I’m sure he didn’t believe me, however he respected my position and said he would have to get in touch with someone else to find the date and he would call me tomorrow.

The following day at eight in the morning I noticed two men from Southern California Edison were at my electric pole. I stuck my head out the window and asked what they were doing and he told me they were tagging my pole and all the poles that surrounded my house so that the crew would not spray herbicide on them. They stuck a little a florescent pink tag on them.

He also gave me his name and phone number and told me to call him, if there were any problems or I needed anything else. He said he would call me and let me know when they would be in my neighborhood as well. To my surprise he did call me and let me know and the crew did not spray any of the poles around my house, so I was able to avoid exposure and the debilitating symptoms I experience, which made me very happy.

So I really wanted to post this update because I was very impressed with the prompt and courtesy response that I received from Southern California Edison. I was really surprised at their level of willingness and cooperation to hear and respond to my special needs. It was greatly appreciated.

Because of the extreme impact that pesticides have on my health, I often have to communicate with people in society and ask for special accommodations. A lot of times I am met with resistance and bad attitudes, so it was refreshing and heart lifting to have such a positive experience with Southern California Edison and so I say Kudos to them on their customer service.


Adriana Moncada
Environmental Monitoring Branch
Department of Pesticide Regulation

5 thoughts on “Hidden Pesticide Exposures”

  1. hi it just occurred to me that aged 23 i was dring down a road when a crop sprayer crossed my path and i could smell/taste a noxious oily mist i am now 59 and have suffered since then poor mental health and anxiety could this have been the start of it and could toxins still be measured in my body kind regards david england

    1. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

      Yes, David, absolutely. Pesticide exposure is a common cause of mental health disorders. Please take a look at the following page:


      It is possible for the pesticide to be stored in fat and tissues for decades. There are tests that Metametrix offers to assess for pesticide exposure. Alternatively, it could also be that caused damage to your autonomic nervous system. Please read the following page as well:



  2. Hello Cynthia.

    9/30/2013. I live in Sand Canyon, near Tehachapi, CA. I noticed an Edison truck on Sand Canyon Road (exit off of 58 freeway) and stopped. The label on the truck was Edison Weed Control. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was spraying around the power poles. I forgot to ask him what the product was and left. I went back a short time later to ask about the product name and he was gone. I wanted to find out if the product was poisonous to bees.

    I could clearly smell the herbide odor through a partially opened window and also over 2 hours later my tongue still tingles.

    Since this time I’ve attemped to find out who the Director or Manager is to speak with him about this because I want the name of the product to research it.

    Another observation was that the person using the sprayer didn’t wear any protective clothing to protect him.

    I’ve made a number of calls to Southern California Edison but haven’t been successful in reaching anyone of authority within the weed control group.

    I’d sure like to find out what they’re using. Bee deaths and also my personal threat to health are my key motivators.

  3. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

    Hi Penny,

    Diuron is the herbicide that is used on all poles that belong to Southern California Edison. I have listed the risks of Diuron above in the post.

    Data on Diuron claims it has low toxicity risk for bees. But, of course, that doesn’t mean that is necessarily true.

    It is difficult to reach the appropriate person. You need to call your local office and tell them you want to speak to someone in the weed abatement department. Each area has a different supervisor.

    They will refrain from spraying poles near your house if you ask.


  4. Additional sources of pesticides throughout east Kern County arise from the installation of thousands of wind turbines now peppering the once pristine Tehachapi/souther Sierra Mountains.

    Though non specific pesticides are used to keep the spread of invasive species (like foxtails) cause by massive ground disturbance.
    MM 4.17-5 Weed Control Plan. Prior to the issuance of grading or building permits by the County and/or a Notice to Proceed by the BLM, the project proponent shall prepare a comprehensive, adaptive Weed Control Plan, for review by the Kern County Planning
    and Community Development Department and the Bureau of Land Management. The purpose of the plan will be to minimize the establishment and spread of nonnative and invasive weed species within the project area during construction and operation activities.
    The Plan shall be implemented upon commencement of construction activities and be
    prepared in accordance with Bureau of Land Management policy regarding weeds.

    Literally, this supposed clean energy scam is not only emptying the pockets of electricity users but poisoning us too.

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