“I have sat across the table and looked into the eyes of farmworkers who show me rashes on their arms and legs and those who tell me about their debilitating chronic health problems,” said Economos, who is the Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project Coordinator for the organization. “These are hardworking people with families and vibrant lives. Our regulations must do much more to protect the very people who feed all of us in this country.”
The federal government estimates that there are 10,000–20,000 acute pesticide poisonings annually among workers in the agricultural industry. Short-term effects of pesticide exposures include stinging eyes, rashes, blisters, nausea, headaches, respiratory problems and even death. Cumulative long-term exposures can increase the risk for farmworkers, their families and their children for serious chronic health problems such as cancer, birth defects, neurological impairments and Parkinson’s disease.
Selena Zelaya worries about her parents possibly getting cancer or some other disease.
“I don’t want them coming home sick just because the owners don’t take precautions for their safety,” she said.
Tom Thornburg, managing attorney for Farmworker Legal Services of Michigan, hopes the issue of pesticide exposure becomes a topic more people are concerned with.
“People seem to care if their tennis shoes are produced by exploited child labor in Asia,” he said. “They should also be concerned whether their blueberries are being produced in situations that are causing workers to become poisoned.”
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