Improvements in the newly released WPS include an increase in worker protection trainings from once every five years to an annual training which will include improved content, such as take home exposure risks, and increased access to information about pesticides. For the first time, there is also now an age limit for pesticide handlers of 18 years. More signage to warn about pesticide use as well as buffer zones to protect from over spray have been included.
Geraldean Matthew kept a wary eye on the sky as she picked sweet corn from a muck field near the north shore of Lake Apopka.
When she saw a plane over the horizon, she and the other farmworkers would quickly drop to the ground and cover their heads and faces as the crop-duster swooped, showering them with a chemical spray of pesticides and fertilizers.
On Thursday, Matthew sat in her Apopka living room, her walker nearby, recalling those days when she toiled in the fields as a teenager starting in the early 1960s.
"We would get wet, and we could feel it on our clothing," said Matthew, who for decades was exposed to pesticides, many of them since banned.
"After work, we would pick up our young children. And we would hold our babies. And their mouths, with their tongues out, would be on our shirts," she said. "And our babies later had rashes all over their skin."
Today, Matthew, 65, seldom leaves her home, except when she takes a bus three times a week to a local medical clinic for hours-long dialysis treatments because of chronic kidney disease. Scars from pesticide burns run across her legs.