Taken from Orlando Sentinel
American farmers apply more than 1 billion pounds of pesticides a year to their fields to kill weeds and damaging insects. But collateral damage includes farmworkers; more than 10,000 a year suffer acute pesticide poisoning. Now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed stricter limits on pesticide use. The issue is especially important in Florida, with its $100 billion agricultural industry and more than 150,000 farmworkers. In a recent email interview, Eve Gartner of Earthjustice, an environmental advocacy group, and Jeannie Economos, a pesticide expert for the Farmworker Association of Florida, called for more stringent rules than the EPA has proposed. Excerpts of that interview follow. A longer version is online at OrlandoSentinel.com/Opinion.
Q: Why are more stringent pesticide rules needed?
A: The farmworkers who harvest the food that the rest of us consume are regularly exposed to toxic chemicals designed to kill pests. Many of these men and women suffer illnesses as a result — rashes, blisters, nausea, headaches, respiratory issues, stinging eyes — and elevated risks of cancer, neurological impairment and other long-term health problems.
According to the federal government, there are 10,000 to 20,000 acute pesticide poisonings among agricultural workers every year. Yet, farmworkers receive far less protection from pesticides than workers in other industries who are exposed to similarly toxic chemicals. Farm workers deserve the same health and safety protections as other workers in the U.S.