Worker health and wellness Immigrants Agriculture, forestry and fishing Workplace exposures

EPA proposes ‘commonsense’ changes to protect farmworkers from pesticides

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Photo: Hemera Technologies/

Washington – The Environmental Protection Agency on Feb. 20 proposed new safety measures intended to protect farmworkers from the harmful effects of pesticide exposure.

Speaking at a press conference, Jim Jones, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, outlined what he called “commonsense revisions” to EPA’s Worker Protection Standard. Changes would include requiring employers to ensure farmworkers receive pesticide safety training on an annual basis rather than every five years, make pesticide hazard information available to farmworkers and their representatives, and post warning signs around pesticide-treated areas. Under the proposal, children younger than 16 would be barred from handling pesticides, except on family farms.

Jones was joined by Amy Liebman, director of environmental and occupational health for the Migrant Clinicians Network. She cited EPA estimates that 10,000-20,000 cases of acute pesticide poisoning occur among farmworkers every year, and described possible health effects ranging from stinging eyes, rashes, nausea, blisters and respiratory problems to Parkinson’s disease.

Comments on the rule will be accepted for 90 days, and Jones said the goal is for the rule to be finalized within a year.