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Daily News Blog

Archive for the 'Occupational Health' Category


29
Mar

Bill Seeks to Eliminate Inequities for Child Farmworkers, But Leaves Weak EPA Pesticide Standards in Place

(Beyond Pesticides, March 29, 2024) Last week during National Agriculture Week, U.S. Senator Ben Ray LujĂĄn (D-NM) introduced S.4038, the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety (CARE), aiming to elevate labor standards for young workers in the agricultural sector, as protection from pesticides remains weak. Currently, agriculture stands as the sole industry that permits children—as young as 12 years old—to work without significant limits on their hours of employment outside of school time. This scenario is a reality for hundreds of thousands of children across the U.S., who undertake the demanding tasks of planting, harvesting, processing, and packaging the food produced nationwide. The CARE Act proposes to align the age and working hour criteria for underage workers in agriculture with those enforced in other sectors. Additionally, the legislation seeks to toughen both civil and criminal penalties for violations of child labor laws and to enhance safeguards for children against the risks of pesticide exposure. It is important to note, however, that the CARE Act would exempt farm-owning families, allowing their children to work on the family farm under the current guidelines. Exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) currently allow children to work unlimited hours, outside of school  hours, […]

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16
Feb

Disproportionate Pesticide Hazards to Farmworkers and People of Color Documented. . .Again

(Beyond Pesticides, February 16, 2024) A report released in January, US pesticide regulation is failing the hardest-hit communities. It’s time to fix it, finds “people of color and low-income communities in the United States and around the world continue to shoulder the societal burden of harmful pollution.” More specifically, the authors state that “ongoing environmental injustice is the disproportionate impact these communities suffer from pesticides, among the most widespread environmental pollutants.” The report follows an earlier article by the same lead authors and others (see earlier coverage) on the long history of documented hazards and government failure to protect farmworkers from pesticide use in agriculture. In a piece posted by Beyond Pesticides earlier this week, the serious weaknesses in the worker protection standard for farmworkers are documented.   The latest report was led by Nathan Donley, environmental health science director at the Center for Biological Diversity and Robert Bullard, known as the “Father of Environmental Justice” and executive director of the Robert D. Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at Texas Southern University in Houston. In addition to these authors, the 2022 review was coauthored by Jeannie Economos of the Farmworker Association of Florida, Iris Figueroa of Farmworker Justice, Jovita […]

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14
Feb

EPA’s Worker Protection Standard Fails to Protect Farmworkers’ Health, Report Finds

(Beyond Pesticides, February 14, 2024) The latest in a series of reports on the state of farmworker protection, released last December, highlights the long history of health threats, regulatory failures, and structural racism that is imbued in the chemical-intensive agricultural system that feeds the nation and world. The authors conclude that farmworkers “face a level of occupational risk unrivaled by most workers.” They continue: “From repeated exposure to pesticides and extreme heat, to injuries from machinery and repetitive motion, conditions on American farms involve myriad hazards. Meanwhile, a lack of access to healthcare and legal services, low wages, marginalization, language barriers, racism, and the threat of deportation among these largely immigrant communities compound their many challenges.” Describing the U.S. food system and the workers who serve as its foundation, Precarious Protection: Analyzing Compliance with Pesticide Regulations for Farmworker Safety is the third publication in a series of reports on farmworker health and safety, led by the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at Vermont Law and Graduate School and written with the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and the nonprofit group Farmworker Justice. Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and Farmworker Justice partnered on the […]

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04
Jan

Work-Related Pesticide Exposure Puts Farmers at Risk of Cognitive (Intellectual) Harm

(Beyond Pesticides, January 4, 2024) A review published in the Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice finds an association between farmers’ pesticide exposure and cognitive impairment. Specifically, farmers suffer from attention deficit, lack of information processing, non-comprehension of verbal cues, slow processing speed, memory loss, sluggishness, speech difficulties, and impaired motor function. Additionally, the risk of adverse effects from exposure increases with time spent around pesticides, like in other occupational (work-related) settings. Although pesticide exposure may not be the only factor involved in cognitive impairment, exposure can work synergistically (together) with other factors, triggering neurotoxicity. Pesticides play various roles in causing or exacerbating adverse health outcomes like neurotoxic effects and chemical damage to the brain. Numerous pesticides impair neurological function, especially for chronically exposed individuals (e.g., farmworkers) or during critical windows of vulnerability and development (e.g., childhood, pregnancy). Mounting evidence over the past years shows that chronic exposure to sublethal (low) levels of pesticides adversely affects the central nervous system (CNS) and neural receptors, such as connections between nerves, the brain, enzymes, and DNA. Specifically, researchers identify agricultural chemical exposure as a cause of many adverse CNS impacts and neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Parkinson’s disease. The researchers reviewed scientific articles published in […]

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03
Jan

Loss of Chromosome Y in Male Farmers Genotoxic Implications for Cancer

(Beyond Pesticides, January 3, 2024) A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives finds elevated, chronic exposure to glyphosate throughout one’s lifetime increases the risk of mosaic loss of chromosome Y (loss of chromosome Y occurs to many men in some cells due to aging [mLOY]) that impacts a noticeable fraction of cells. Although the loss of this sex chromosome does not cause cell death, like the loss of autosomal chromosomes, the risk of mLOY is a biomarker for genotoxicity (the damage of genetic information within a cell causing mutations from chemical exposure, which may lead to cancer) and expansion of cellular response to glyphosate, resulting in the precursor for hematological (blood) cancers. This study is one of the first to identify sex-specific chromosome degradation, with stark evidence demonstrating links to various cancers, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified the glyphosate as a probable carcinogen or cancer-causing chemical. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) allowance of widespread use of glyphosate allows for adverse impacts, especially among vulnerable individuals, like pregnant women, infants, children, and the elderly. Glyphosate exposure levels and resulting residues in urine has been documented with recent data showing that four out of five (81.6%) […]

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04
Dec

Protection of Pregnant Farmworkers Under Civil Rights Protection; Will There Be Enforcement.

(Beyond Pesticides, December 4, 2023) With a history of neglect of farmworker protection in the workplace, advocates are pointing to the need for ensuring stringent enforcement of regulations that are expected to take effect under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) this month. In addition to weak laws and protections that typically exempt farmworkers, enforcement for farmworker protections that do exist has been lacking. A report on enforcement of wage and hour law under Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has documented diminished capacity to detect and enforce against violations. A report by the Economic Policy Institute (2020) shows the dramatic failures of DOL, which is underfunded and understaffed to enforce the law. As the agency charged with operationalizing the new law to protect farmworkers, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will be up against a federal pesticide law enforcement system that is dependent by agreements with state agencies, mostly departments of agriculture, that have a history of failing to enforce the limited protections provided for farmworkers. The EEOC is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and operates 53 field offices in every part of the country. Farmworkers have endured a long history of discrimination in the United […]

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28
Nov

New Federal Law Seeks to Protect Pregnant Workers, Farmworkers at Elevated Risk

With the elevated adverse impacts associated with pesticides and reproductive health, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) law may be used to improve protections for farmworkers and other high-risk employees.

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07
Jun

Pesticides and Neurotoxicity: The Link Between Mood Disorders and Pesticides Exposures

(Beyond Pesticides, June 7, 2023) A systematic review of scientific literature published in Environmental Research on the development of mood disorders among pesticide applicators (farmers, landscapers, etc.) finds an increased risk of depression symptoms over the last decade. The evidence in the review highlights the presence of pesticide-specific biomarkers and biomarkers of depression that determine the positive association between pesticide exposure and the development of depressive symptoms. With more high-quality longitudinal studies to control sociocultural variables, researchers can directly pinpoint risks of developing depression, especially among agricultural workers and landscapers who use pesticides. Research on pesticide-induced diseases commonly investigates pesticide exposure concerning the development of various physical illnesses. However, previous studies show that occupational (work-related) risks of developing depression are high in agriculture, where pesticide use is rampant. Acute exposure to chemicals, including organophosphate, organochlorine, triazine, and carbamate pesticides, tends to put farmers at greater risk of suicide than the general population. There is a lack of information connecting pesticide exposure to the subsequent psychological (psychiatric) effects on the general population. Additionally, household pesticide exposure varies from occupational exposure via exposure frequency, duration, intensity, and type.   According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression affects 322 million people globally, with the number of diagnosed patients increasing by 18.4% from 2005 to […]

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23
Feb

Father’s Exposure to Toxic Chemicals in the Workplace Increases Risk of Heart Disease in Infants

(Beyond Pesticides, February 23, 2023) A father’s exposure to occupational (work-related) chemicals, including pesticides, around the time of his partner’s pregnancy, has an association with a higher risk of infant congenital heart defects (CHDs), according to a Japanese study published in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine. The prevalence of infant CHDs is one of the most common genetic (congenital) diseases worldwide. However, the etiology of CHD includes both genetic and environmental factors. Heart diseases are among the leading causes of death worldwide, and heart conditions are one leading cause of disability in the U.S. Research, including this study, demonstrates environmental pollutant exposure can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including stroke, heart attack, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and cardiac arrest. Considering chemical exposure exacerbates adverse disease effects, reviews like these highlight the significance of evaluating synergism between diseases and toxic chemicals to safeguard human health. Therefore, researchers are “suggesting the importance of the management of paternal occupational exposures for the prevention of infant CHDs. Further studies using biomarkers of occupational exposure are warranted.” To investigate the risk of CHDs in infants, researchers in this study examine fathers’ work-related exposure to toxic chemical compounds, frequency of pesticide use, and synergetic mixtures of chemical compounds. […]

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18
Aug

Parents’ Exposure to Pesticides Indicative of Childhood Cancer Risk among Offspring

(Beyond Pesticides, August 18, 2022) A study published in Environmental Research suggests occupational (work-related) exposure to pesticides among nonpregnant women and men may increase childhood cancer risk for offspring. Already, studies find low levels of pesticide exposure during pregnancy or childhood cause adverse health effects from metabolic disorders to mental and physical disabilities. However, few assess parental exposure’s impact on childhood disease risk outside critical development periods (e.g., pregnancy). Although medical advancements in disease survival are more prominent nowadays, childhood cancer remains the leading cause of death from disease among children. Furthermore, childhood cancer survivors can suffer from chronic or long-term health complications that may be life-threatening. The etiology or cause of childhood cancer involves the interaction of multiple components like lifestyle and genetics. However, emerging evidence indicates that environmental contaminants like pesticides (e.g., occupational exposures, air pollution, pesticides, solvents, diet, etc.) play a role in disease etiology. Pesticide contamination is widespread in all ecosystems, and chemical compounds can accumulate in human tissues resulting in chronic health effects. Children are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of pesticide exposure as their developing bodies cannot adequately combat exposure effects. Moreover, several studies demonstrate an association between environmental or occupational pesticide exposure and the risk of childhood cancer. Considering maternal pesticide […]

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19
May

Contaminated Environment and Chemical Exposure Puts Firefighters at Elevated Risk for Adverse Heart and Brain Effects

(Beyond Pesticides, May 19, 2022) A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association finds a correlation between the number of fires fought annually and atrial fibrillation (AF), one of the most common medical arrhythmias that increases the risk of stroke, heart failure, and other cardiovascular health issues. In the firefighting occupation, firefighters can experience exposure to chemicals and particulate matter in smoke, pollutants, volatile organic compounds, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that increase cardiovascular (heart) and respiratory distress risk through oxidative stress and autonomic function disruption. However, firefighters encounter both personal and occupational (work-related) risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, making this subset of the population particularly vulnerable to heart-related fatalities. Considering firefighters live 10 to 15 years less than non-firefighters, studies like these are significant for understanding how chemical exposure contributes to health and wellness disparities. Lead author Paari Dominic, Ph.D., notes, “Clinicians who care for firefighters need to be aware of the increased cardiovascular risk, especially the increased risk of [AF], among this unique group of individuals… The conditions that elevate their risk further, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, lung disease and sleep apnea, should be treated aggressively. In addition, any symptoms of [AF], such as […]

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03
Feb

Study Adds to Growing Body of Research Linking Common Lung Disease (COPD) to Work-Related Pesticide Exposure

(Beyond Pesticides, February 3, 2022) A study published in the journal Thorax finds lifetime occupational (work-related) exposure to pesticides increases incidents of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Although research often attributes COPD risk to genetics or cigarette smoking, the increasing rate of COPD incidents indicates an external cause of disease development. Although an exact etiology (cause) of the increase in respiratory disease cases remains unknown, the connection between chronic respiratory diseases and exposure to pesticides continues to strengthen. Several circumstances, including smoking patterns, poverty, occupation, and diet, can influence disease prognosis. However, studies show that relative exposure to chemicals like pesticides can occur within each circumstance, making chemical exposure ubiquitous. Additionally, pesticide drift is an omnipresent issue impacting communities surrounding farming operations, and dust may harm humans, plants, and aquatic systems. Therefore, this review highlights the significance of evaluating the association between pesticide exposure and disease development, especially for diseases generally attributed to genetics or vices. Researchers in the study note, “[W]e found that cumulative exposure to pesticides is associated with an increased risk of COPD, with positive exposure-response trends. The unique large sample and the confirmation of our results in sensitivity analyses, in particular in never-smokers, support the validity […]

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04
Nov

45 Different Cancers Associated with Work-Related Pesticide Exposure

(Beyond Pesticide, November 4, 2021) A scientific literature analysis by the Federal University of Goias, Brazil, finds occupational (work-related) exposure to agricultural pesticides increases the risk for 45 different types of cancer. This analysis assesses studies from the last decade—2011 to 2020—to identify cancer risk associated with occupational exposure by country, pesticide type, and methods used to diagnose disease. Many pesticides are “known or probable” carcinogens (cancer-causing agents), and widespread uses only amplify chemical hazards, adversely affecting human health. However, research on cancer and pesticides lacks comprehensive information regarding human health effects associated with long-term chemical use. This study highlights the significant role that long-term research plays in identifying potential health concerns surrounding registered pesticides. The use of these xenobiotics (foreign chemical compounds) substances in agriculture are increasing. Thus, it is important those working with and around these toxicants have protection. The analysis notes, “Overall, then, the results of the present study emphasize the need to evaluate overuse of pesticides and the concomitant increase in the number of cancer cases. Future research should thus include active intervention in the correct use of pesticides by farmworkers and encourage adequate training and the use of PPEs [personal protective equipment], as well as routine periodic medical […]

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05
Nov

Pesticide Exposure Increases the Risk of Developing Gene-Specific and Sporadic Parkinson’s Disease Incidences

(Beyond Pesticides, November 5, 2020) Research at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) finds that pesticide exposure increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease (PD), regardless of whether disease onset is idiopathic (spontaneous) or genetic (GBA genetic risk variant). Although the exact etiology of PD remains unknown, epidemiological and toxicological research repeatedly identifies exposure to pesticides, as well as specific gene-pesticide interactions, as significant adverse risk factors that contribute to PD. Furthermore, this study, “Gene Variants May Affect PD Risk After Pesticide Exposure,” suggests that environmental triggers like occupational exposure to pesticides can prompt PD in individuals with or without the genetic precursor. This research demonstrates the importance of assessing disease etiology concerning occupational pesticide exposure, especially if disease triggers are overwhelmingly non-hereditary. Since not all individuals genetically predisposed to the disease develop PD, with only 10 to 15 percent of PD cases being genetic, government officials need to consider alternate etiological pathways that include environmental risk factors. Study researchers note, “‘Environmental exposures may have differential effects in different genotypes’ and may predispose people with PD to different symptom burden.”  Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, with at least one million Americans living with PD and about […]

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07
Sep

Commentary: Let’s Do More Than Thank Workers on This Labor Day; Let’s Commit to Abolishing Pesticide Laws that Institutionalize Disproportionate Risk

(Beyond Pesticides, September 7, 2020) On Labor Day during this coronavirus pandemic, it is especially appropriate that we thank all essential workers—but thanks are not enough. We must redouble our efforts to eliminate the racial and economic inequities in our society that contribute to disproportionate risk to the health and well-being of workers, especially people of color. As the commentary in New York Magazine by Sarah Jones states, “[T]okens of appreciation are just that: tokens, which signal nothing deeper than gratitude. That doesn’t pay anyone’s rent.” And, all our gratitude does not protect anyone’s health. Nobody should have to risk their health for a job. As we as a nation recognize that systemic change is needed to fight racial and economic injustice, we are faced with questions that go to the core of our society—the distribution of wealth, a livable wage, investment in and access to education and health care, and an environment that sustains life. It could be said that an environmental organization, like Beyond Pesticides, that works on environmental, health, and agriculture and land management issues should “stay in its lane” and not delve into broader issues that address our social and economic structure. However, the events of the […]

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