Migrant Clinicians Network

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New EPA rule offers better protection from pesticides for US farmworkers

US farmworkers, many of whom move from state to state following crops, will now have better access to information about the pesticides used at the farms where they work. Among other things, a new EPA rule will require employers to provide annual pesticide-hazard training to farmworkers.

Pesticide drift from a pear orchard sickened 20 farmworkers laboring in a neighboring cherry orchard. Many sought care, but the state’s health department wasn’t notified by the workers’ clinicians. It was a newspaper reporter who called authorities. Where were the clinician reports and why are they so important?

“For us it’s personal,” said Jeannie Economos, Farmworker Association of Florida Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project Coordinator. “It’s a daily issue for us. Every day with a weaker protection standard is another day a worker is exposed to pesticides,” she said. On February 20th the EPA proposed revisions to its Worker Protection Standard for agricultural pesticides. Farm worker advocates are welcoming the proposal – the first update since 1992 – but see both improvements and what some are calling “steps backward.”