(Beyond Pesticides, September 4, 2009) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined a Minden, Nevada-based ornamental tree nursery for misusing pesticides contrary to labeling requirements and failing to comply with federal pesticide worker safety laws.
Genoa Tree Nursery misused the pesticide Diazinon AG500 during applications in May and June 2008. The company failed to comply with label directions that require it to minimize the risk of exposure by notifying workers and handlers of recent pesticide applications on particular fields, and failed to provide workers with nearest emergency medical care facility information in case of exposure. The applicator also did not receive safety training during the previous five years as required by law. EPA fined Genoa Tree Nursery a mere $5,440 for these violations.
“Notifying employees about potentially harmful pesticide exposure is not just a good idea, it’s the law,” said Katherine Taylor, EPA’s Communities and Ecosystems Division associate director for the Pacific Southwest region. “Employers of agricultural workers must ensure their employees are provided with information and protections that minimize the risk of potential exposure to pesticides””failure to do so is a serious violation.” The Nevada Department of Agriculture discovered the violations during a routine inspection in June 2008.
The pesticide, Diazinon AG500, a restricted use pesticide, is limited to agricultural use only and must be applied by a certified applicator or a person under the direct supervision of a certified applicator. Linden Tree Nursery’s May 2008 application of Diazinon AG500 had neither a certified applicator nor a person under the direct supervision of a certified applicator.
The Worker Protection Standard, part of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), when adhered to, is designed to protect workers from occupational exposure to pesticides through the enforcement of labeling requirements. The standard contains requirements for the provision of pesticide safety training, decontamination supplies, and emergency medical assistance, as well as the notification of recent pesticide applications, the use of protective equipment, and restrictions on reentry into fields where pesticides have been applied.
Farmworkers in the U.S. work in some of the most physically demanding and dangerous jobs, and suffer injuries and illnesses at high rates. They suffer from exposure to pesticides, extreme temperatures and are constantly stooping, bending, and lifting. A 2008 study by a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researcher finds the pesticide poisoning incidence rate among U.S. agricultural workers is 31 times higher than the incidence rate found in all other industries combined.
EPA has long been criticized for its abysmal record of instituting and enforcing even the most basic human health protections from pesticides for those who are responsible for planting and harvesting much of the nation’s food. In May 2009, EPA announced its decision to allow continued use of toxic soil fumigants that poison farmworker communities with modified safety measures, falling far short of safety advocate efforts to adopt more stringent use restrictions and chemical bans. Beyond Pesticides, farmworker unions, support groups, and worker advocacy organizations wrote a letter strongly urging the Administrator to uphold environmental justice for farmworker communities.
Source: EPA News Release