Orlando Sentinel Letters to the Editor for February 8, 2016.
Farmworkers at risk every day
The incident of farmworkers being exposed to pesticides from drift in an aerial application on a farm in Belle Glade is only one of the more egregious cases of what happens on a less dramatic scale to farmworkers every day.
Contrary to some sentiments, farmworkers frequently experience less severe, but equally important, symptoms — skin rashes, headache, nausea, dizziness, vomiting — daily. The problem is three-fold: Many farmworkers are not aware that these signs may be related to pesticide exposure; health-care providers are not trained to identify these symptoms in their farmworker patients, and they do not generally take an occupational health history of their clients; and most farmworkers cannot afford to miss a day of work and/or they are too afraid to complain about their health problems for fear of being labeled a troublemaker.
This is not supposition or speculation. This is what we hear almost every day, every week at the Farmworker Association of Florida. In addition, chronic pesticide exposure can lead to serious long-term health problems, even learning disabilities and ADHD in the children of agricultural workers. Regarding workplace violations, farmworkers tell us all the time that growers will have workers clean up a site so that everything is in order when they know there is an inspector coming.
The current ugly anti-immigrant rhetoric today only exacerbates this problem. For everyone who eats, we need to thank farmworkers — documented or undocumented — for feeding us every day at the risk to their health.
Jeannie Economos health and safety coordinator, Farmworker Association of Florida, Apopka