Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Growing Up Healthy in the Red River Valley Photovoice Exhibit

Title: Photovoice Session - White Earth Participants
Photograph by: PM

The Red River Valley has 5.5 million acres of land planted in crops -- wheat, sugarbeets, potatoes, sunflowers, and barley -- farming practices employ use of pesticides. Recent ecological studies showed elevated infant death rates and birth defects in the region, raising questions about exposure to pesticides. While scientists see many limitations in these studies, community concern exists concerning health risks of pesticides given the large scale use of these chemicals in farming.

Although studies of pesticide exposures have been conducted on family farms in several areas of the nation, little is known about how members from these particular populations of families are actually exposed. Both urban and rural populations may be subject to pesticides applied to adjacent fields, yards, parks, homes, and buildings, as well as residues in the food system.

Photovoice is a research method that goes beyond simply collecting data and writing about the findings for peer-reviewed journals. Photovoice seeks to embed the data in communities in order stimulate discussion and action toward change. Photovoice enables participants to use photographs to raise questions like, "Why does this situation exist? Do we want to change it, and if so, how?" By documenting their own worlds and discussing with policy makers the images they produce, community people can initiate grassroots social change.

Photovoice starts with the premise that collected data belongs first and foremost to the participants. The aim of this photovoice project was to understand concerns women may have about pesticides (or other chemicals) used in their homes and communities. Women (mothers and grandmothers) from communities throughout the Red River Valley participated. Many thanks go to the women whose photographs are displayed. Their insight and keen eyes have made this exhibit possible.

This project is funded through a grant from the Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation. Project Partners include:
University of Minnesota Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership
University of Minnesota School of Public Health and its Centers for Public Health Education and Outreach
University of Minnesota and North Dakota State University Extension Services
White Earth Tribal and Community College
Immigrant Development Center
Quin Community WIC Program

Title: Fogging the Yard
Photograph by: LT

"He was fogging for mosquitoes. My neighbor's son, actually. He's probably about 12. He has no protective stuff on. He's got no mask or anything covering his face or hands. But that's very common to see people in their backyards [spraying]. My brother-in-law has the same thing too, and he does that."

Title: Mosquito Fog
Photograph by: LT

“The spray for the city had come around. It’s out of the back of a pickup and so he was spraying. And that’s the mist that is left after he’s gone by. It lingers, for mosquitoes. It lingers for a while. I put my kids into the house and I went out and took the picture. It lingers for a while and you can smell it longer than you can see it."

Title: Swoop
Photograph by: MB

“He was swooping right over the road, right over the cows and spraying and we stopped and I got out of the van and it smelled so terrible. I was literally almost holding my nose ‘cause it was so thick.”

Title: Puddles of Spray
Photograph by: WL

“There are always puddles like this on the road from the overspray. Last weekend I was driving through the same area on my way home from the cities. The puddle was all the way across the road and it was spraying our car. I know that this chemical burns, I know that you can get chemical burns from this stuff and so I shut my car window but still that spray was, shouldn’t be sprayed on the road or near me or my car.”

Title: West Nile
Photograph by: SH

“I’m really worried about the insecticide exposure for my children, the pesticide exposure but I’m also worried about West Nile virus . . . . I just wish that there was some way short of just seeing the truck come by to know that they’re going to spray, just to get my kids and my toys. If your yard is full of toys and they’re all of a sudden coming down the block, you don’t have time to pick up all your toys. It’s hard ‘cause I don’t know how, they never call anyone in town.”

Title: Wait 'til It's Dry
Photograph by: SH (Quote SO)

“I have children. Whenever they spill milk or juice, I have to spray and clean it. But after I clean they come and play there. So I don’t know how strong the chemical is that I’m using. How strong is it? If they touch and put their hand in their mouth, what’s going to happen? I don’t have enough knowledge about the chemical I’m using. So it worries me all the time. Sometimes I wish they were out when I’m cleaning. They should come back while it’s dry.”

Title: Spraying the House
Photograph by: PH

"I've had a lot of bugs in the house, which drives my husband crazy, and he went and bought stuff to spray and he asked me to get the kids out of the house . . . so we are all sitting in the van out in the driveway, which he claimed was only going to take a couple minutes. It took us an hour and fifteen minutes. He went down and did the crawl space, but he is out doing all the spraying for the bugs."

Title: Zoom
Photograph by: PH

“And they come early in the morning and wake the kids up. They’ll just zoom right, ‘cause they go right over the house. Zoom. And the kids will come down and Ben will say, ‘it’s scared, it’s scared.’ It’s the airplane and sometimes he’ll want to go out and watch the airplane because he wants to “see the airplane but he can’t go out there."

Title: My Prevention Strategy
Photograph by: LT

“That’s where I keep my ant and my mosquito spray so my kids don’t get it. That’s in my garage. That’s my prevention strategy.”

Title: Spawning Ammonia Tanks
Photograph by: PH

“The anhydrous ammonia. You see tanks all over but probably one of my biggest fears with raising kids with methamphetamine [around],
and you see how securely they are put away. Generally we see a tank or two parked out in the fields here and there.”

Title: Look Ma, No Fuzz
Photograph by: SH

“These don’t have fertilizer on them. They don’t put anything on them at all, and the ones in the store, they’re shipped in a truck and they throw the chemical in the back to burn off the mold and the fuzz that grows on them, and half the time they’re not really ripe. . . . That’s chemical too to make them just turn red or whatever. They’re so much better and safer.”

Title: Come and Play
Photograph by: CC

“That’s another big thing, there’s a field right on the other side of their daycare and when we went to go pick them up you could just smell that [chemical]. The day care lady asked, should they be out here? I would get them inside. I haven’t seen anybody come up and put any pesticides on those two fields but there’s one right behind the day care and right behind our apartment building and there’s one right across the road from our apartment building. That’s a big concern because the day care has the kids out three or four times a day. And I’m sure they don’t clean that playground equipment.”

Title: Spraying the Fields
Photograph by: SH

“They were doing something with one of the tractors and spraying something else with the tractors. Just the thought of that, of how many people are getting exposed to [pesticides] and don’t even know. Plus, just driving down the road and getting exposed to it ‘cause they’re spraying."

Title: Morning Breakfast
Photograph by: FD

“I was at home one morning and there was a guy from the Fargo Housing Authority with some insecticide or something. He came. He said he wanted to look around to see if we have pests. So you can see [the chemical] next to it, there’s the milk. I was worried about [the food], whatever he’s doing could contaminate whatever. What he was doing was a little scary. It’s an open package. It was open already. He left the package there and he went to his car to pull out something else.”

Title: Peas are Cool
Photograph by: FA

“They like to dig the potatoes and pick the tomatoes. I think sometimes they’re more likely to try a food and be more willing to say “yes” I like this tomato, just because they grew it. Like peas for instance. Kids generally don’t like peas, but if you let them shell them out in the garden and eat them just like that. They think that’s pretty cool.”

Title: Together Gardening
Photograph by: FA

"Some kind of setting like this will give us the opportunity to come together. I have beautiful pictures this year. Yesterday we had a Kurdistan woman and her children, my children, and then we had five Liberian children, and then we had another five children from a Somalian woman and it was all children."

Title: Potato Field
Photograph by: WL

“The Pine Point School is located across the road from an RDO potato field. They would be spraying constantly over there. That’s just what they do. My little brother goes to school there and my mom pulls him out of school on the days that they spray the field. I don’t think that it’s fair that the parents have to protect their kids from getting contaminated while at school.”

Title: Pine Point School Flower Brigade
Photograph by: WL

“After I took that picture, the picture of the children at the school, I turned around to take a picture of the fields that they spray just to show how close they are to spraying the school. So standing in the same place here’s the kids planting flowers. Turn around, they’re at the fields.”

Title: No Title
Photograph by: SO

“It sounds like that if this were a group that were going to try and send one message out, it’s that they’d like some education for the their young mothers on how to protect their children.”

Title: Apple
Photograph by: MB

"That's my baby. He's the apple of my eye and my main concern, no kidding."

About the researchers:

Patricia McGovern, PhD, University of Minnesota, School of Public Health
Linda Kingery, MS, University of Minnesota Northwest Sustainable Development Partnership
Abby Gold, PhD, MPH, RD, University of Minnesota and North Dakota State University Extension Service
Fowzia Adde, Immigrant Development Center
Kristin Eggerling, MA, University of Minnesota NW Regional Sustainable Development Partnership Board
Stephanie Williams, White Earth Tribal and Community College
Maggie Stedman-Smith, PhD, MPH, RN
Kathy Draeger, PhD, University of Minnestoa Sustainable Development Partnerships