Author Archives: Sasha Khokha

Sasha Khokha is Central Valley Bureau Chief for KQED’s  statewide public radio program, The California Report. Based in Fresno, she covers a vast geographic beat, including the nation’s most productive farm belt, some of California’s poorest towns, and Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks. Whether trekking up a Sierra glacier with her microphone, interviewing farmworkers in Spanish, or explaining complicated air or water quality issues, Sasha translates rural California to the rest of the state. She is a graduate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and Brown University, and the mother of two young children.

Report: High Rates of Pesticide Use Near Many California Schools

Central Valley farmworkers and environmentalists protest pesticide spraying on farms near schools, from outside an elementary school in West Fresno at risk.  (Sasha Khokha/KQED)

Central Valley farmworkers and environmentalists protest pesticide spraying on farms near schools, from outside an elementary school in West Fresno at risk. (Sasha Khokha/KQED)

A new state report shows tens of thousands of California students attend schools very close to farms where heavy amounts of pesticides are used.

Farmworkers and pesticide reform groups say the data is long overdue.

This is the first time the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has comprehensively surveyed pesticide use near the 2,500 schools in 15 California counties with the most pesticide use. CDPH defined “near” as within 1/4 mile, a “common distance” when pesticides are used near schools. Monterey, Ventura, Tulare, and Fresno counties had the most students and schools located within a quarter-mile of where pesticides are used.

Latino school children are 91 percent more likely than white students to attend schools near fields with heavy pesticide use. Continue reading

Farmworker Women Gather in Tulare County

(J. Stephen Conn/Flickr)

(J. Stephen Conn/Flickr)

Nearly a thousand farmworker women will gather Friday in Tulare, one of California’s poorest counties, for the annual Farmworker Women’s Conference. They’ll learn about education, social services and have an opportunity to discuss their lives and the health challenges they face.

Lali Moheno of Visalia started this San Joaquin Valley conference 11 years ago because she wanted to help other women farmworkers. Moheno’s mother spent decades picking cotton and grapes. She died without any medical insurance to treat her leg injuries and diabetes. Moheno sought to help educate other women and share tactics to improve their lives.

“You will be a better person, a better mom, a better voter, a better woman,” Moheno said, “if you learn to think on your own — if you learn take control of your life and not let other people control your life.” Continue reading

‘Cal Enviroscreen’ Ranks Zip Codes Statewide By Pollution

New Screening Tool Provides Broad Snapshot of Total Environmental Burden

Factory in West Fresno. (Sasha Khokha/KQED)

A factory in West Fresno. (Sasha Khokha/KQED)

It’s the first environmental health screening tool of its kind in the country.

California’s Environmental Protection Agency is rolling out “Cal Enviroscreen” which helps pinpoint communities that may be particularly vulnerable to pollution. And it’s not just for wonks. You can look up your own community. Cal Enviroscreen measures a broad range of pollutants and health indicators in every zip code across the state.

The most vulnerable community in the state? West Fresno, one of Fresno’s poorest areas. Other zip codes in the top ten include Bakersfield, Stockton and the Los Angeles-area communities of Vernon, Baldwin Park, and Boyle Heights.

Toxicologist Dr. George Alexeeff heads the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. He says California regulators have done a pretty good job of targeting individual pollution problems, like reducing diesel exhaust, or eliminating particular chemicals in drinking water.

But that kind of regulation doesn’t give a broad snapshot of the total environmental burden some communities face. Continue reading