(Beyond Pesticides, October 3, 2011) A new film highlights North Carolina farmworker children’s stories about being sprayed with toxic pesticides while working in the field. Overworked & Under Spray: Young Farm Workers’ Pesticide Stories features interviews with six high school-age children about their experiences working in the fields in eastern NC. Most of the children’s stories involve incidents of pesticide exposure that are illegal according to NC law. The film is the latest documentary short to be released by Toxic Free North Carolina.
“You could see the spray coming at you…but we kept on working. The next day I didn’t feel so good,” said Felix Rodriguez, one of the high school-age farm workers featured in the film. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about pesticides to the owner or supervisor because they’ll see you as nagging. They just really want you to work.”
Farm work is demanding and dangerous physical labor. A 2008 study by a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researcher finds that the incidence rate of pesticide poisoning is extremely high among U.S. agricultural workers. Young farmworkers and children of farmworkers are especially at risk. Children are much more vulnerable than adults to the injuries and illnesses brought on by this type of work. Due to children’s higher rate of metabolism, they take in more pesticides per unit weight than adults, and their developing organ systems are more sensitive to the effects of pesticides.
Overworked & Under Spray was produced through Toxic Free NC’s Farm Worker Documentary Project, which is in its fourth year. Toxic Free NC is a Raleigh-based nonprofit that works statewide to reduce pesticide pollution through grassroots organizing and policy reform.
“Hearing these kinds of stories from youth is especially compelling, because we know that exposure to pesticides can have an even more profound health impact on a child than it can on an adult,” said Toxic Free NC Executive Director Fawn Pattison. “It is our hope that by getting these stories out there, we can urge the state to do a better job of enforcing its pesticide laws.”
While we work to strengthen our state and national laws, consumers can also make a difference at the grocery store or farmers market. Our food choices have a direct effect on those who grow and harvest what we eat around the world. This is why food labeled organic is the right choice. In addition to serious health questions linked to actual residues of toxic pesticides on the food we eat, our food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, protection of farmworkers and farm families.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.