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EPA Moves to Protect Farmworkers

The EPA is updating standards to protect the nation's farmworkers from pesticide poisoning. Credit: Enviromantic/iStockphoto.
The EPA is updating standards to protect the nation's farmworkers from pesticide poisoning. Credit: Enviromantic/iStockphoto.
October 1, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The EPA is updating standards to increase safety and protect the health of America's estimated two million farmworkers from pesticide poisoning.

The new rules mean children under the age of 18 will no longer be allowed to handle pesticides, and workers will get safety trainings every year instead of every five years.

Giev Kashkooli, national political legislative director with United Farm Workers, was quick to praise the move.

"This is a really big step forward," he says. "Finally, the laws on the books will bring farmworkers mostly in parity with all other workers. The next step is to make sure that these laws on the books become the laws on the fields, meaning that they'll need to be enforced."

Kashkooli says farmworkers have been on the front lines of occupational exposure to pesticides for decades, noting the last time rules were updated was in 1992. He says the EPA decision caps years of work by a coalition of farmworkers, advocates, health providers and rural communities.

The updates require farms to give workers more information about pesticides being used in the fields, and to provide better protective gear and improve decontamination procedures. The EPA hopes limiting the exposure of farmers – and their families – to pesticides will lead to a healthier workforce, fewer lost wages and lower medical bills.

Margaret Reeves, a senior scientist with the Pesticide Action Network, says the rules are also a "win" for the nation's dinner tables.

"As a consumer, I want to know the food that I'm buying and feeding my family is not produced in an exploitative way," she says. "Rather, those workers are treated well and provided with a safe workplace."

Reeves says her group will be keeping a close eye on both EPA enforcement and state agencies to make sure the new rules do their job protecting the nation's farmworkers.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NM