A local environmental project will increase its exposure to decrease exposure.

The Fund for Santa Barbara has donated a grant of $7,500 to the Environmental Defense Center’s (EDC) Central Coast Environmental Health Project (CCEHP) to aid in its effort to spread information concerning the dangers of pesticide use in North County communities such as Santa Maria and Lompoc. The money will be used to bolster CCEHP’s outreach and education program.

CCEHP was created by the EDC — a nonprofit, public interest law firm based in Santa Barbara — and has been working with communities in the North County that have been at the “agricultural/urban interface” stage since 1998. These areas are subject to exposure due to the wide use of pesticides in agriculture, private homes, parks and public schools.

“These North County communities have shown us that they want and need this information,” CCEHP’s Program Director Eric Cardenas said. “It is surprising to see how little information is actually currently available.”

EDC Assistant Director Barbara Bannerman-Olitzky said current agricultural practices often pose immediate and substantial health risks to farmers, their families and surrounding communities. California increased its use of carcinogenic pesticides by 127% between 1991 and 1998 in addition to a 20% increase in pesticides that can harm male and female reproductive organs and developing fetuses.

The outreach program includes efforts to spread this basic information to communities affected by pesticide drift incidents, which often includes door-to-door pamphlet distribution. CCEHP also sponsors informational booths at local events and participates in local public forums. By working with local health care providers, government agencies, farmers and farm workers, CCEHP hopes to better inform affected communities while working to decrease reliance on pesticides through education.

“The most important thing is to generate awareness,” Cardenas said. “The Fund for Santa Barbara realizes that this is outreach that needs to happen.”

The Fund for Santa Barbara is a nonprofit foundation working to support grassroots organizations in providing social, economic and environmental justice for local communities. In addition to its current funding of the CCEHP’s program and other environmental affairs, the Fund for Santa Barbara works to promote peace both locally and internationally. This includes supporting homosexual and minority rights, working to prevent acts of hate and sponsorship for groups confronting the U.S. government’s policies both home and abroad.

The Fund for Santa Barbara has experienced tremendous growth within the past five years. According to its year-end update, 1997 saw only $38,000 in grants while 2002 saw more than $160,000. The money given through its grants is generated through private donors, endowment funds and its annual Bread and Roses fundraising dinner and auction held every fall. The foundation performs two grant cycles per year with applications submitted every March and September from various organizations and often provides repeat funding for successful programs.