By Mary-Ann Warmerdam, Special to the Mercury News

Too many Californians associate pesticide use only with large-scale agricultural operations. In reality, pesticide sales are split about evenly between agricultural and nonagricultural products, including home and garden pesticides and institutional products like chlorine used to sanitize drinking water.

A small but growing number of consumers are buying organic produce because of concern about the effect of pesticides on their health and the environment. There is much less awareness that use of pesticides to kill ants and other pests in our own homes and gardens can harm the environment.

For example, surface water monitoring data collected for the state’s regional water quality control boards and by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation continue to detect pesticides in waterways in both agricultural and urban settings at levels toxic to some small aquatic organisms.

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