Minnesota farmworkers may be interested to learn the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may soon be updating its regulations for handling of the pesticides farmworkers use. Current regulations are more than 25 years old and considered out of date by numerous organizations representing farmworkers. The EPA is expected to publish proposed regulations within the next few weeks.

The agency acknowledges that its Workplace Protection Standard for pesticides does not meet the needs of today’s farmworkers. Supporters say more protection of farmworkers from exposure to pesticides is necessary because upwards of 20,000 farmworkers suffer acute pesticide poisoning annually. As many as two million U.S. farmworkers apply about 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides to crops grown every year in this country. Organizations that support pesticide reform include United Farm Workers, California Legal Assistance Foundation, Farm Worker Pesticide Project and the Farmworker Association of Florida.

Without adequate protection from the chemicals they use, farmworkers can suffer health problems such as stinging eyes, respiratory problems and rashes. Other health problems include cancer and neurological impairment, and extreme cases of exposure can lead to death. Children of farmworkers can suffer from birth defects.

All Minnesota workers are entitled to a safe working environment. Workers’ compensation benefits may be available not only for workers who are injured on the job but for those who become ill because of working conditions, and a workers’ compensation attorney may be able to assist a client in filing a claim. These benefits can include medical treatment, loss of earnings if the sick employee cannot work and retraining for a new occupation if the worker cannot return to his former position.

Source: Wisconsin Gazette, “Farmworkers welcome planned changes to protection standards”, January 30, 2014