“We started around four [4:00] to four thirty [4:30] in the morning,” one worker reported. “I heard someone say ‘it’s raining,’ I didn’t feel anything but I could smell it. I could smell a chemical smell like a garden product. I heard a plane or helicopter I never saw it but I heard it. I did have symptoms, my head was hurting, and my eyes were itchy and really watery.”
Farmworkers, like the man quoted above in this Mother Jones report, are routinely exposed to pesticides. In the incident above, men working a field were hit with doses of chlorpyrifos from a crop-duster spraying an adjoining field and Vapam, which had been injected in heavy doses at a nearby potato farm that produces for Tasteful Selections. As a result of this incident, Tasteful Selections and the pesticide company that sprayed chlorpyrifos were both fined for failing to disclose the presence of the pesticides. Pat Trowers of the Pesticide Action Network, is quoted in the Mother Jones story, saying “The fines levied against these companies amount to little more than pocket change for large-scale growers….It’s simple—the punishment should fit the crime. Higher fines and larger no-spray zones around workers would be a much more effective deterrent to pesticide drift problems.”
Today is Day Three of Farmworker Awareness Week. The theme for the day is Life, and the action is to call on Congress to institute a ban on chlorpyrifos. You can join in the action by connecting to the Pesticide Action Network here.
As reported in the Guardian last May:
Chlorpyrifos is widely used in US agriculture, sprayed on crops such as corn, wheat and citrus. However, growing evidence of its impact upon human health led the EPA to agree with the chemical industry more than a decade ago that the product should not be used indoors to get rid of household bugs.
The pesticide has been linked to developmental problems in children such as lower birth weight, reduced IQ and attention disorders. Large doses of the chemical can cause convulsions and sometimes even death. People are exposed through spray drift, residues on food and water contamination.
Chlorpyrifos, which is produced by Dow Chemicals, can still be used for agricultural purposes but after a legal challenge by environmental groups, EPA scientists stated that the pesticide was not safe for any use and proposed widening the ban.
A subsequent ban of chlorpyrifos was rejected, however, under the new Trump administration. Scott Pruitt, administrator of the EPA, said he denied the ban to provide “regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos”. The EPA said there were “serious scientific concerns and substantive process gaps” in the plan to banish chlorpyrifos. The next review of the chemical isn’t scheduled until 2022.
Farmworkers cannot wait until 2022. Join the call to action! Contact your legislators!