Agricultural workers and their families are regularly exposed to harmful pesticides and other chemicals. Mixing or applying chemicals, planting, weeding, harvesting, processing crops, eating with chemical contaminated hands, drinking or bathing in pesticide exposed irrigation systems, or living near treated fields pose health risks. In addition, studies have shown that the clothing agricultural workers wear home can also impact the health of surrounding individuals. Children of agricultural workers are especially at high risk for chemical exposure, even though they may not directly interact with the chemicals.
According to the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, exposure to pesticides, even in small doses, can cause severe effects.
Symptoms from pesticide exposure include the following:
• Excessive sweating
• Muscle pain and cramps
• Eye irritation
• Respiratory problems
In more severe cases, exposure to pesticides can cause blindness, severe burns, and death. In addition, some pesticides have been linked to long-term effects, such as cancer and birth defects.
Although these chemicals are deemed safe in small doses, too much exposure can impact your health and the health of those around you. It is important for you to know how to protect yourself and your family from exposure to pesticides and other poisons.
Worker Protection Standards on Pesticides
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees pesticide use through the Worker Protection Standard (WPS). The EPA works to reduce the risk of pesticide poisonings and injuries among agricultural workers. The WPS contains requirements for pesticide safety training, notification of pesticide applications, use of personal protective equipment, restricted-entryintervals after pesticide application, decontamination supplies, and emergency medical assistance.
Protections are as followed:
• A minimum age of 18 for pesticide handlers
• Annual safety trainings
• Rules on decontamination
• Personal protective equipment
• Pesticide and chemical information
It is also important to note that it is illegal to spray while workers are in the field or to allow workers to work in areas just sprayed, unless workers are provided with special protective equipment. Workers have the legal right to refuse to enter a field until it is safe, which is usually anywhere from 12-48 hours after spraying, depending on the chemical used.