New Farmworker Justice Report Profiles Dangers of Pesticide Poisoning & Offers Recommendations for EPA Action

Our new report exposes the serious health risks faced by thousands of farmworkers each year from pesticide exposure, and the failings of workplace regulations and standards to prevent the high rate of pesticide-related injuries, illnesses and deaths. 

Exposed and Ignored: How Pesticides are Endangering Our Nation’s Farmworkers provides an overview of the harm caused to farmworkers across the country by pesticide exposure, including personal stories of workers and their families who have suffered serious illnesses. Despite the preventable nature of pesticide exposure, few farmworkers are properly notified of the risks they face on a daily basis and regulations aimed at protecting workers against pesticide exposure have not been updated in more than 20 years.

“Each year pesticide exposure poisons as many as 20,000 farmworkers, yet regulations to protect these vital workers have not been updated to address this growing problem,” said Virginia Ruiz, Director of Occupational and Environmental Health for Farmworker Justice. “These injuries, illnesses, and deaths are preventable by taking the necessary steps to protect our farmworkers and their families.”

Pesticide exposure causes farmworkers to suffer more chemical-related injuries and illnesses than any other workforce nationwide. Short term effects include stinging eyes, rashes, blisters, blindness, nausea, dizziness, headache, coma and even death. Long term impacts such as infertility, neurological disorders and cancer are also prevalent. Not only are farmworkers subjected to these risks, but their families who live in nearby communities and go to schools neighboring the fields face the same dangers. 

The report offers recommendations to improve the safety of American farmworkers and their families, including:

  • Updated Worker Protection Standards that require more frequent and thorough pesticide safety training, medical monitoring of workers exposed to risky pesticides, and improved safety precautions to limit contact with pesticides, particularly for pesticide handlers.
  • Spanish translations of pesticide labels.
  • Creation of buffer zones around schools and residential areas to protect farmworker families who are exposed through aerial drift.
  • A national reporting system of pesticide use and poisonings and increased funding to research the health effects of repeated pesticide exposure. 

“Just as we establish standards and regulations to protect workers in every industry, we must address the health and safety of the farmworkers who labor each day to put food on our tables,” said Ruiz. “Current workplace regulations are failing to keep American farmworkers safe.”