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US EPA moves to tighten pesticide exposureqrcode

Nov. 14, 2013

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Nov. 14, 2013
US Federal environmental regulators recently made key moves toward revising rules governing how growers must protect field workers from pesticide exposure, according to a national organization that lobbied for the rules change.

The proposed revisions to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) were submitted to the White House Office of Management & Budget(OMB), the nonprofit group Farmworker Justice said Monday.

“Each year pesticide exposure poisons tens of thousands of farm workers and their families, leading to injury, illness and death,” said Virginia Ruiz, director of occupational and environmental health at Farmworker Justice. “We applaud the EPA for taking this step to help protect the workers who labor to put food on our tables.”

Following an OMB review, the EPA will open the regulations to public comment before any revisions are made final. The majority of the rules being considered already have been adopted in California and are administered by the state Department of Pesticide Regulation.

A new report issued by Farmworker Justice called “Exposed. Ignored. How pesticides are endangering our nation’s farmworkers,” looks at the issue from a national perspective. The organization’s representatives in Washington, D.C., have told The Californian that they would like to see the entire country raise its protection standards to those mandated in this state.

The report lays out key recommendations that Farmworker Justice is advocating being adopted by the EPA in its rules revision. Among them are requiring more frequent pesticide training for farm workers, requiring farm workers to receive information about the specific pesticides they are working with, requiring medical monitoring of workers who handle neurotoxic (affecting the nervous system) chemicals, and limiting farm workers’ contacts with pesticides.

All of those recommendations are part of either existing California Department of Pesticide Regulation rules or will be adopted in the next few months. Farm-worker activists are also lobbying the EPA to require Spanish translations on pesticide labels and implement buffer zones around schools and residential areas to protect against pesticide drift.

Both of those latter recommendations are being expanded by California regulators in rule changes unveiled in Salinas during the summer.

Compared to the rest of the country, California regulators have historically been a few steps ahead of federal regulators in adopting rules to protect both farm workers and consumers.

What can exacerbate pesticide exposure, even in California, is that many farm workers are undocumented, and their immigration status discourages workers from seeking medical treatment, or even notifying their employer, if they are exposed to pesticides.

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