Advocates: EPA Falls Short on Protecting Workers From Pesticides
Obama administration removed a requirement to make information about
pesticides anonymously available to laborers when it proposed an update
to farmworker protection regulations, advocates said Friday.
by members of Congress, the Obama administration released the proposed
changes to the rules written in 1992 to protect agricultural workers.
Latino farmworkers, most
in the country illegally, are most likely to be impacted by the
proposed changes that were released Thursday.
disappointing," Erick Nicholson, national vice president of the United
Farm Workers, said of the proposed changes released by the Environmental
Protection Agency, which oversees farmworker protections.
law requires information on pesticides be posted in a central location
so workers can view the information anonymously. But the proposed rules
remove that requirement, Nicholson said. Because many of the workers are
in the country illegally, a fact well known by government officials and
the agriculture industry, few are going to approach management for
information about the chemicals, he said.
sad thing is my organization has been around for 52 years and we are
largely in the same place. All we are asking for is for this agency to
ensure that workers do not get poisoned in their place of employment and
we are still not there yet," Nicholson said.
estimated 10 to 20 thousand farmworkers are injured by pesticides on
the job in the U.S. each year, according to Farmworker Justice, an
immigration group. Exposures can lead to immediate problems of rashes
and skin and eye injuries, to longer-term problems such as cancer,
neurological damage and at the worst, death, the group said.
pesticide exposure is believed to be underreported and the updates are
intended to improve enforcement of the regulations, Gina McCarthy, EPA
administrator, said in an interview with NBCnews.com.
been working on this for a while and it is a significant issue. We've
tackled something we haven't tackled in decades," McCarthy said.
Because the rules are still a proposal, comments by the public can be used to reshape them.
farmworkers from such on-the-job injuries, including pesticide
poisoning was a key goal of Cesar Chavez, the civil rights leader who
helped found the UFW. He is the subject of a soon-to-be released film.
Reps. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, and Linda Sánchez of California, sent a
letter signed by 50 additional lawmakers urging McCarthy to issue the
letter, the lawmakers cited a decade-old statement by the EPA saying
that even when there is full compliance with the agriculture worker
protection standards "risks to workers still exceed EPA's level of
"There is no reason
agriculture employers can't properly inform their workers of the risks
they face," Grijalva said in a statement.
said the rules include an age limit of 16 for workers handling
pesticides. Though some advocates would like to see the age higher, the
rules, if adopted, would establish an age limit for the first time,
"We are trying to
take action on issues that have been contentious for years and get them
on the table again and start tackling them one by one," she said.
Saturday, January 20 2018 9:37 AM EST2018-01-20 14:37:09 GMT
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