A Follow-up Report Calling For Action To Protect Farmworkers
(Beyond Pesticides, February 8, 2006) The Farm Worker Pesticide Project, Columbia Legal Services, Farmworker Justice Fund, and United Farm Workers released a report today analyzing the 2nd year of Washington State’s cutting edge medical monitoring program for farm workers. This report, More Messages from Monitoring: Year 2 of Washington State’s Farm Worker Medical Tracking Program, is a follow-up to last year’s report Messages from Monitoring: Farm Workers, Pesticides and the Need for Reform. The Washington State monitoring programs have found that in 2005 one in 10 workers who regularly handled organophosphate or carbamate pesticides experienced significant depressions of cholinesterase, an essential nervous system enzyme. The pesticide Lorsban (chlorpyrifos), which is widely used in Washington State and elsewhere was implicated as a prime culprit associated with nervous system impacts, with Guthion (azinphos methyl) and other pesticides also implicated. All but one of 59 workers with significant depressions had applied the pesticides by airblast sprayer.
“It is time to protect the people who put food on our tables by promoting safer ways of growing food and by taking interim steps like air monitoring,” said Carol Dansereau, Director of the Farm Worker Pesticide Project (FWPP).
“While implementation was better in Year 2, we strongly encourage L&I (Washington State Department of Labor and Industries) to employ its enforcement authority to get out to worksites quickly and to ensure effective protection of workers with depressed cholinesterase,” said Evi Licona of Columbia Legal Services, which represents workers poisoned by pesticides. “We’re dismayed that the agency is now discontinuing the regular on-site visits that were done in 2005, which collected invaluable information and could be more effective if done more promptly." In addition to spotlighting Lorsban and airblast sprayers as primary concerns, L&I site visits found numerous violations of health and safety standards that put workers at risk.
“Washington State’s monitoring program is a wake up call to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to increase safeguards for farmworkers,” said Shelley Davis, Deputy Director of the Washington D.C.-based Farmworker Justice Fund Inc. “EPA should ban the use of Lorsban, Guthion, and other pesticides that are injuring farmworkers, and it should require interim measures such as a national medical monitoring program and the use of enclosed cabs and closed mixing and loading systems,” she said.
“Farm workers are being exposed to nerve poisons that compromise their nervous systems, and put them at risk of immediate and long-term injury,” said Erik Nicholson, Western Regional Director of the United Farm Workers. “We can’t let this injustice continue.”
Both the English and Spanish versions of the report can be found on the Farm Worker Pesticide Project website. For more information contact Carol Dansereau.
Take Action: Write to U.S.EPA Acting Administrator Stephen Johnson and demand adequate protection for farm workers from the dangers of pesticides.