Reducing the Deleterious Effects of Pesticide Exposure on Agricultural Workers and Communities
REPRESENTATIVE EZEQUIEL SANTIAGO, CHAIR (CT) ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT TASK FORCE
Sponsored by: Assemb. Irene Bustamante Adams (NV)
WHEREAS, pesticides are toxic chemical substances released intentionally into our environment to target, control and kill weeds, insects, fungi, bacteria, rodents and other pests; and,
WHEREAS, pesticides are used in homes, parks, schools, buildings, forests, and roads, but are more consistently and systematically applied in farms to promote crop development and yields; and,
WHEREAS, the groups most exposed to pesticides, and at elevated risk of injury, include production workers, formulators, applicators, mixers, loaders, and farmworkers; and,
WHEREAS, an estimated 5.1 billion pounds of pesticides are applied to crops worldwide every year and 516 million of those are applied specifically in the United States; and,
WHEREAS, according to a report by Farmworker Justice, a leading organization that, like the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, is part of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), our nation’s approximately two million farmworkers face the highest threat of health impacts from pesticides of any group; and,
WHEREAS, the United States Department of Labor states that 80 percent of those farmworkers identify themselves as Hispanic; and,
WHEREAS, in November 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revised the Worker Protection Standard (WPS), applicable to farmworkers and other pesticide handlers, which had not been updated since 1992; and,
WHEREAS, most provisions of the new WPS were implemented in January 2017 including safety precautions such as a minimum age of 18 for pesticide handlers and annual pesticide safety training for workers; and,
WHEREAS, the remaining sections of the new regulation are supposed to take effect in January 2018, including expanded content in the pesticide safety training and protections from drifting pesticides during applications; and,
WHEREAS, on May 11, 2017, the EPA announced its intention to delay implementation of the updated WPS; and,
WHEREAS, according to the Purdue University Pesticide Programs, in high concentrations or at continual exposures, pesticides can cause a range of deleterious health effects including tumors, mutagenicity, skin sensitization, irritation of the skin or eyes, and even death; and,
WHEREAS, according to the National Farm Worker Ministry, farm workers may get sprayed while picking crops, but can also be exposed whenever they re-enter the fields prematurely after the fields have been sprayed which could be, depending on the pesticide, 1-30 days after spraying; and,
WHEREAS, the exact number of workers injured each year by pesticides is unknown though the EPA estimates that up to 3,000 acute pesticide exposure incidents occur every year; and,
WHEREAS, there is no national surveillance system for acute pesticide illness reporting and no surveillance system for tracking chronic illness related to pesticide exposure; and,
WHEREAS, 30 states require health professionals to report suspected pesticide poisoning, but an unknown number of incidents go unreported due to workers’ lack of access to health care, medical misdiagnosis, and health providers’ failure to report, among others.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators recognizes that although pesticides are beneficial to agricultural production, they also pose unique hazards to farmworkers; and, therefore, it calls upon legislators, regulators, inspectors and other stakeholders to ensure that employers who apply pesticides on agricultural establishments provide adequate information, safety training and gear, and take all necessary measures to prevent pesticide illness among farmworkers, their families, and agricultural communities and other nearby towns and settlements; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators urges the EPA and Congress to ensure that the current updated Worker Protection Standard remains in effect and not to weaken the worker protections contained therein; and,
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators urges states to enact policies that improve the reporting of pesticide exposure, and, particularly urges the 20 states where health professionals are not required to report on this issue to enact specific legislation to that effect.
THIS RESOLUTION WAS ADOPTED ON AUGUST 9, 2017, AT THE NHCSL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEETING HELD IN BOSTON, MA.
10. 80 Federal Register 211 (November 2, 2015), p. 67502