Protecting Farm Workers from Pesticides

Pesticides are toxic chemicals used to kill or control pests. Each year, the United States uses over a billion pounds of pesticides. Many pesticides can pose public health and environmental threats, but they are of particular concern for farm working families who face the highest levels of exposure to these toxic substances. One of the largest contributors to farm workers’ coming into contact with pesticides is pesticide drift, which is the movement of pesticide dust or droplets through the air at the time of application or soon after in any site other than the area intended. Studies have estimated that as much as 45% of spray misses its target and becomes drift or ground deposits, an imminent danger to farm workers laboring nearby.

Currently, we are working with members of Congress to pass the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2021 (PACTPA), which would ban pesticides that have been scientifically proven to harm people and the environment. These pesticides include Organophosphate insecticides, which have been linked to neurological damage in children; Neonicotinoid insecticides, which cause developmental defects, heart deformations, and muscle tremors in unborn children; and Paraquat, which has been shown to increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. PACTPA would also protect farm workers by requiring employers to report all pesticide-caused injuries to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); direct the EPA to review pesticide injury reports and work with the pesticide manufacturers to develop better labeling to prevent future injury, and require that all pesticide label instructions be written in Spanish. The UFW Foundation is proud to be one of 70+ organizations to endorse this legislation.

Farm workers and their families have continuously been exposed to harmful pesticides for years. We must continue to work with our partners and lawmakers to protect our nation’s farm workers from toxic exposure. These are long overdue protections that must be enacted now.

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