Advocacy groups ask EPA to protect farmworkers from pesticides

Washington – A coalition of groups supporting worker rights, Latino rights and the environment are urging the Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen legal protections for farmworkers at risk for pesticide exposure.

In a Feb. 14 letter (.pdf file) to EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, the groups called for “long-overdue revisions” to the Worker Protection Standard of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, including requiring the use of systems to prevent pesticides from splashing onto workers and monitoring workers who use pesticides that may harm the nervous system.

Two of the groups that signed the letter – Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice – previously submitted a petition to EPA in which they claimed that farmworkers, who are primarily poor and Latino, receive weaker protections than workers in non-agricultural sectors.

The groups said they have received no response to the petition and would like EPA to immediately publish a proposed rule reviewing the standard.

As evidence of the need for stronger protections, the letter cites a study showing that an average of 57.6 per every 100,000 agricultural workers experience pesticide poisoning, illness or injury each year even though many of them are following the standard.

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