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Farm Workers Poisoned by Pesticide Drift
(Beyond Pesticides, May 14, 2005)
Pesticides poisoned nineteen farm workers on Sunday, May 2 at a California peach orchard in Kern County, according to United Farm Workers. As the workers were laboring in the early morning hours, they were exposed to drifting toxic chemicals that were sprayed on a nearby potato field. Thirteen of the workers were transported to Bakersfield hospitals, and three of the women were required to remain in the hospital in guarded condition.

The workers were exposed to the pesticides Monitor 4 and Penncozeb 75 DM. Monitor 4 contains methamidophos, an acutely toxic cholinesterase-inhibiting neurotoxin which is highly toxic to humans. It is carcinogenic, can cause reproductive and developmental harm, and effects the nervous system. The active ingredient in Penncozob 75 DM is mancozeb, which probably causes cancer and is especially dangerous for pregnant women, causing reproductive and developmental harm.

Unfortunately, farmworker exposure to hazardous pesticides is not uncommon. In fact, in June 2003, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cited 200 violations in Colorado of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act’s (FIFRA) Worker Protection Standard (WPS), a regulation aimed at reducing the risk of pesticide poisonings and injuries among agricultural workers and pesticide handlers.

More recently, monitoring of farmworker blood samples by the Washington Department of Health has shown a higher rate than expected of possible overexposures to organophosphate or carbamate chemicals, according to the Seattle Times.

Research has shown that in California, the state in which the 19 workers were poisoned two weeks ago, pesticide safety laws fail to protect many of the state's 700,000 farmworkers from poisonings even when the laws are apparently followed.

TAKE ACTION: Sign the petition to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation to immediately investigate and take action over Sunday's poisoning of farm workers. In addition, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee details steps to take to get farmworkers the rights that they deserve, summarized in Beyond Pesticides’ Daily News story Support FLOC’s Mt. Olive Pickle Company Boycott.