Daily News Archive
From August 22, 2005

Farmworkers in Idaho Fall Sick Due to Illegal Pesticide Spraying
(Beyond Pesticides, August 22, 2005)
The Department of Agriculture issued notices of violation to three companies and one pilot for violating state pesticide law. The law states that a certain amount of time must pass before farmworkers enter a field after it has been sprayed. Arroway Farms, along with Valley Air Service, are being held accountable for not leaving substantial time between pesticide spraying and the start of the workday. Their neglect for the law resulted in the falling ill of 29 farmworkers as a result of pesticide exposure.

On July 6th Fred Amen, a crop duster pilot for Valley Air Service, applied a tank of three mixed pesticides, Mustang Max, Dithane DF, and Lannate LV, to an onion field owned by Arroway Farms. The spraying took place between midnight and 1:30 a.m., only 4 and a half hours before workers were scheduled to begin their day in the field. The law states that 12 hours must pass before workers can re-enter a field that was sprayed with Mustang Max (active ingredient: Cypermethrin Zeta). Dithane DF (active ingredient: Mancozeb) and Lannate LV (active ingredient: methomyl) have even longer waiting periods of 24 hours and 48 hours respectively.

The workers who showed up that day began to feel ill immediately. One worker, a 14-year-old boy named Miguel, recalled, “Everybody around me was getting sick, and it was really scary.” Miguel, along with his mother and 18-year-old sister, has felt numbness, nausea, headache, and fatigue since the day of the exposure.

The active ingredients in all three of the pesticides used have been identified as a “bad actor chemical” by Pesticide Action Network (PAN). Cypermethrin Zeta, a synthetic pyrethroid, is a possible carcinogen, a suspected endocrine disruptor, and has an acute toxicity rating of 1 (on a scale of 1 to 4, 1 being the most toxic 4 being the least). Mancozeb is a carcinogen, a suspected endocrine disruptor, and a developmental and reproductive toxin. Methomyl, is a suspected endocrine disruptor, a potential groundwater contaminant, and has an acute toxicity level of 1.

Arroway Farms faces up to $9,000 in fines due to failure to train employees on workers rights and failure to provide and maintain sufficient safety information at central locations on the farm. Valley Air Service, Inc., along with the pilot and the Marsing Agricultural Labor Sponsoring Committee, are being charged with violations of the Worker Protection Standard and pesticide labels. They are also facing fines as much as $9,000.

TAKE ACTION: Support farmworker's health and rights by buying organic and fair trade products whenever possible.