Activist Group Says It’s Time to Change Worker Protection Standard for Farmers

Staff Writer
The current EPA pesticide regulations do not adequately protect farmers’ health

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Eating fruits and vegetables is a good habit to get into — but washing them first may be just as important. Depending on the type, pesticides can do anything from irritate your eyes to negatively affect your nervous system. And some, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns, “may be carcinogens.” So, wash your produce before consuming it. Easy enough, right? For home cooks, yes. But what about farmers?

On Monday, Farmworker Justice, a nonprofit organization that fights for farmers’ rights, posted a report recommending new and improved pesticide regulations for the EPA. The current regulation, the Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides, has not been updated in 20 years.

Notably, the recommendations from Farmworker Justice speak to language barriers and how these isolate — and ultimately hurt — many farmers. According to the report, “Pesticide exposure causes farmworkers to suffer more chemical-related injuries and illnesses than any other worker nationwide.” Moreover, “farmworkers’ ability to understand danger is [hindered by] the pesticide label itself.” By providing warning labels in both English and Spanish, important precautionary information can be more accessible to the people who critically need it.

Virginia Ruiz, the director of Occupational and Environmental Health at Farmworker Justice, described farmers as “Frustrated about their lack of knowledge about these chemicals” — and rightfully so.

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The EPA is currently working on a revised version of the Worker Protection Standard.