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We would suggest that you start by directly approaching those responsible for the spraying. This may be individual farmers or growers, landowners, or the local council if it is amenity spraying (parks, pavements etc). Talk to them about your concerns. You could ask for a ‘no-spray zone’ to be left around your property, or to be given some notice when they are going to spray – that way you can at least keep your windows shut and keep children and pets inside, or arrange to be away from the area.
At present, there is no legal requirement for pesticide users to adopt these measures, but they are encouraged to do so as part of good practice when using pesticides. The National Farmers Union has produced two leaflets to provide guidance for farmers and spray operators on neighbour issues:
The Good Neighbour Initiative - Best practice when spraying near to residential areas
Good Neighbour Initiative - Spray Operator Guide
Erica lives in Suffolk, surrounded by fields and orchards. Pesticide spraying is frequent; she has been exposed several times, but she is most concerned about her teenage daughter. When an exposure necessitated a doctor's visit, Erica decided to take action. After meeting with farmers through the local parish council, Erica succeeded in setting up a local prior notification scheme. Erica writes:
“A group of us were strolling down the main street of a small Suffolk village one afternoon. It being a sunny Bank Holiday, the area was busy and there were children playing in the street.
It was fine but windy so I was surprised to see a sprayer set out on fields bordering the street. Within minutes the whole village was bathed in spray drift. We quickly made for a friend’s house but others – including families with children – continued playing on the swings downwind.”