GRAPE Research Project

GRAton Pesticides (GRAPE) Research Project

Sonoma SASS has been chosen to be part of a community-based research project to learn if agricultural pesticides are making their way into the domestic water supply and ambient air in Graton, CA. Graton community members have expressed concerns about pesticides contamination in the water and ambient air and the potential health hazards from exposures. The GRAton PEsticides (GRAPE) Research Project is a reconnaissance effort to gather water and air samples to test for pesticides contamination in order to better understand potential health risks. 

If you are interested in participating in the research, please complete this participant intake survey.

Sonoma Safe Ag Safe Schools (SASS) is proud to partner with the University of California San Francisco, Californians for Pesticide Reform, the United States Geological Survey, Breast Cancer Action, and California Breast Cancer Research Program to bring this important research to our Graton community! 

We would like to thank Graton Against Synthetic Pesticides (GASP) for their outstanding contributions bringing awareness to this situation in Graton. 

GRAPE Research Aims

1. Build community dialogue regarding groundwater contamination and pesticide drift in agricultural regions, share the purpose and design of a health and exposure study, and provide information about study results, including ways to limit potential exposures.

2. Conduct a reconnaissance study of groundwater to characterize pesticide contamination and measure total estrogenic activity in domestic water supplies, deploy silicone bands at each sample site to test for pesticides in particle drift/dust, and characterize determinants of pesticide detections. 

3. Share the study design and results with farmers in the Graton area and other rural agricultural residential areas in Sonoma County to increase communication and understanding among stakeholders.

GRAPE Research Project Details

We are recruiting several Graton households for a study of pesticides found in groundwater samples collected from indoor and outdoor taps and of the atmosphere via silicone bands affixed for a month near their homes. Participants will also complete a brief questionnaire regarding their domestic water use, household pesticide use and filtration system, if any. Participants will be selected based on their likely vulnerability to pesticide contamination due to well depth and type, and proximity to agricultural operations. The study will be guided by a Community Advisory Board composed of Graton residents. A key element of our dissemination plan will be engagement of conventional growers with operations in the vicinity of Graton, with the goal of fostering awareness of agricultural practices that may be contributing to groundwater contamination.

The project has the potential to inform local policy advocacy efforts, and to foster collaboration with neighbor-growers to address practices that may be contributing to groundwater pollution. The partnership will benefit the community by bringing expertise to help answer their questions about environmental contributors to disease, and will evaluate the efficacy of domestic filtration systems at eliminating pesticides from drinking water supplies.

Research time frame: The study was approved in 2020. Samples will be taken in the Spring of 2021 and taken to USGS in Sacramento for testing. Results of the test will then go to UCSF for epidemiological studies and associated health risks. Results of the research will be available to research participants and the general community in the Spring of 2022. 

Why Graton is Perfect for this Study

Concern over widespread pesticide use has reached a climax in the unincorporated community of Graton, whose 1,700 residents all depend on separate private wells for their water. Graton is entirely surrounded by treated agricultural land, mostly vineyards with some apple production. Thus, there is great concern about human exposures to pesticide contamination via air, soil, and groundwater supplies, and a growing urgency to better understand and measure it. According to Pesticide Use Reporting data from the Department of Pesticide Regulation, around 23,000 pounds of pesticides are used each year in the two sections across which Graton is spread. Among the top ten pesticides used in the vicinity of Graton, two are known carcinogens: glyphosate and mancozeb. At the same time, there is a high level of community concern about breast cancer rates in Sonoma County, where the age-adjusted rate is the 9th highest in the state. The neighboring wine-producing county of Napa ranks 8th.

Graton community members advocating for the right to know what is being sprayed near their school and homes.