From the Florida Farmworkers Association
Washington, D.C. – Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Inc. is bringing attention to the issue of pesticide exposure in farmworker communities during the National Poison Prevention Week. Poisoning is the leading cause of injury-related death in the US. Nearly 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides and herbicides are sprayed on fruits and vegetables each year throughout the United States. These toxic chemicals not only harm the pests that might eat or damage crops, they also make the workers who are in daily contact with them ill.
Pesticide exposure causes farmworkers to suffer more chemical-related injuries and illnesses than any other workforce in the U.S. Each year, thousands of farmworkers experience the effects of acute pesticide poisoning, including headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, or seizures. Pesticide exposure can lead to chronic health problems for workers and their families, such as cancer, infertility, birth defects and neurological disorders.
As part of National Poison Prevention Week, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas will host a Twitter Town Hall on Thursday, March 22 at 11 am PDT (2 pm EDT) to facilitate a discussion with the public about the dangers of chemicals and how to prevent unintentional poisonings among farmworkers and their families. Mily Trevino Sauceda, Vice President and Co-Founder of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, along with other members, will share stories of exposure and their current advocacy efforts with the public. “Our communities of farmworker women deserve dignified jobs and an environment free of toxic chemicals that damage our reproductive health and the health of our families,” said Trevino. “We want our workplaces and communities to be healthy and safe,” she adds. From March 18th to the 24th organizations and individuals are encouraged to co-sponsor, host their own events, and post on social media about the dangers of pesticides for farmworkers and what to do to achieve safer workplaces. Sample posts and pictures can be found here.
“We, the women that work in agriculture, have the right to know which pesticides we are exposed to every day and we want the regulations that protect us from poisoning to be enforced” said Dolores Bustamante, Alianza’s board member and representative of Mujeres Divinas (Divine Women), a support group for farmworker women in Western NY. In 2015 many farmworkers and activist groups in the US celebrated the improved pesticide safety regulations (the Worker Protection Standard or “WPS”) which reduce pesticide illness in farmworkers and their families. However, the EPA under the current administration has indicated its intent to roll back many of these important safeguards which include: 18 years as the minimum age requirement to apply pesticides, the right to designate a representative who can request pesticide information, and the application of exclusion zones that will protect untrained workers from exposure.
Each year, more than 2 million poisonings are reported to the nation’s poison centers, but only 20,000 pesticide poisonings are reported each year to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “We want to make sure that farmworkers know that they have the right to report to the EPA or the enforcement agency in their state if they were exposed or poisoned by pesticides. Unfortunately, we know that many more poisonings go unreported because farmworkers fear retaliation which can result in losing their jobs or even their housing,” said Paola Macas Betchart, an Alianza board member and Worker Rights Advocate with the Worker Justice Center of NY.
Alianza Nacional de Campesinas remains active in the fight to protect farmworker women from injustice, discrimination and hazardous working conditions and invites the general public to support their work and advocacy efforts by calling their representatives and speaking up for farmworkers and donating to their campaigns. Learn more about Alianza’s work in their website and social media.
In case of a poison emergency, contact your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222. Farmworkers can report violations to the Worker Protection Standard with the EPA or your local enforcement agency.