A report released the week of December 9, 2019 shows how climate change creates a great threat to farmworkers. The report focuses on two main threats to workers: pesticide exposure and heat stress conditions. Read More.
Exposure to the pesticide chlorpyrifos has been linked to brain damage in infants and children. California banned it earlier this year, and last August a federal court ordered EPA to ban the chemical. EPA announced last week that it would not ban the pesticide, citing insufficient data. <Read more>
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By Teresa Mills
Today as I opened my Valentines Day card I was immediately transported to a place that I had forgotten existed. It was a small neighborhood where the streets were lined with beautiful majestic trees with leaves just beginning to bud. The sweet smell of spring was in the air.
As I walked along the streets, I did see an occasional patch of dandelions. It was plain to see that the neighborhood children loved these tiny flowers as I found several rings and necklaces made from these golden flowers. As I picked up one of these tiny rings, I noticed that these childhood treasures were the only things discarded on the sidewalks. The lawns seemed natural; I wanted to take off my shoes and run through the yards like I did when I was young.
In this place I found adults sitting on their porches drinking tea out of beautiful handpainted porcelain cups, no throwaways here. (Remember when houses had porches.)
As I passed by a group of neighbors talking about their upcoming neighborhood picnic, I could hear how excited they were, and it arose such a warm feeling in me that took me back to my childhood. Back to the days when teenagers would get so upset because everyone in town knew your business and kids knew they could not get away with anything, ya just knew someone would tell your mom.
When I looked up all I saw was a blue sky with an occasional puffy cloud. I felt I could see forever.
Just as I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, I realized I had broken this wonderful spell I was under. When I opened my eyes I was back to reality. The sweet smells became the all too familiar heavy odorous smells of industry. I once had an elected official tell me that the smells showed the community was prospering. Really?
The so-called perfect manicured lawn I see every day are not natural they are lawns doused with man-made chemicals. Have you ever look at one of those little signs they put in your yard after it has been sprayed?
Have a heart today, wish your neighbor a Happy Valentines day or just a good day. Today people go for months or even years without talking to their neighbors. What a shame.
I tried to open my Valentines Card again to see if it would once again be transported back to my childhood days. But my card turned out to be just a Happy Valentines Day Card from my loving husband. But oh I wish I could go back to those carefree days. Think of your childhood and have a beautiful Valentines Day.
Between long hours, low pay and hazardous working conditions, farmworkers – many of whom are from minority and low-income communities – bear incredible health costs in order to sustain our country’s food supply. Pesticide exposure is one of the main occupational hazards of farm work, with both short-term health effects that can lead to lost days of work and school and hefty medical bills, and increased long-term risks of cancer and neurological problems. The EPA states that agricultural workers report between 1800 and 3000 pesticide exposure limits annually. It has been 22 years since the EPA last updated their agricultural Worker Protection Standard, and so the recently enacted changes, which more stringently protect farmworker health, are a welcome development, but are they enough?
The changes increase the frequency of pesticide handling training from every five years to a more robust annual requirement, which will include information about take-home exposures from dirty clothing and boots. They also establish “buffer zones” to protect workers from over-exposure to fumes and sprays. The regulations also set an age limit of eighteen for the handling and mixing of pesticides. Previously, there were no restrictions on children’s exposure to pesticides. The Farmworker Association of Florida wrote that the protections “bring farmworkers more in parity with health and safety regulations already covering workers in most other professions in the United States.”
The regulations have been met with praise but also criticism from advocacy groups. While age limits and training requirements have been celebrated, many have commented that the new rules do not require workers to undergo routine medical monitoring for pesticide exposures, a protective measure that is required in both California and Washington.
Some advocates have also identified language barriers in communicating about the risks of pesticides, which typically have warning labels in English. “More than 80 percent of workers in the “salad bowls” of Salinas, Calif. or Yuma, Ariz., are Hispanic,” NPR reported in 2013. A further step for protecting worker safety would be to require making bilingual information available for pesticide products, which the recently updated regulations do not require. While advocacy group Farmworker Justice celebrated the regulations, Virginia Ruiz, the group’s director of occupational and environmental health, also stated in 2013 that “without bilingual labeling, today’s Spanish-speaking agricultural workforce is at great risk for pesticide exposure.”
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Another pitfall of the regulations rests at the intersection of environmental justice and our nation’s debate over immigration reform. Paola Betchart of the Worker Justice Center of New York stated in an interview with North Country Public Radio that many farmworker illnesses go unreported because of the undocumented status of workers, who are fearful they will be deported if they seek medical attention. Justice for our nation’s farmworkers will require us to address much more than just pesticide exposure levels, but the new regulations are certainly a positive – and long-awaited – first step.
Learn more about farmworker exposures to pesticides here.