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Colorado Migrant Farm Workers Routinely Poisoned by Pesticides
(from August 27, 2002)

A report released by the Colorado Legal Services, Migrant Farm Worker Division found numerous and dangerous violations of pesticide safety laws on many Colorado farms. Both state and federal safety violations were discovered in the survey.

The report, "Hidden Costs: Farm Workers Sacrifice their Health to Put Food on Our Tables," examines Colorado Legal Services' Casillas Pesticide Action Project's survey of migrant farm workers conducted in Colorado during the 2001 growing season. The detailed survey asked for information about the farm workers' experience with pesticides, training and medical conditions.

The report included some shocking discoveries concerning the conditions and training of farm personnel. "The workers are treated as disposable," said Equal Justice Works Fellow Kimi Jackson, director of Colorado Legal Services' Casillas Pesticide Action Project.

Forty-seven percent of the surveyed farm workers reported irritation of the nose or throat after working. Twenty-six percent stated that they had experienced dizziness or weakness. Twenty-two percent reported difficulty breathing. Forty-eight percent of the farm workers reported that they had been sent to work in a treated field before it was safe to enter.

The surveyed workers stated that they took safety precautions when facilities were available. When hand-washing water was available, ninety-six percent of the surveyed workers said they used it. However, forty-one percent reported that they did not have access to hand washing water while they were working and were unable to wash pesticide residue from their skin.

The problem of lax safety standards in agricultural settings is well documented by the federal government in addition to the findings of this and other advocate groups. In 2001, United States Environmental Protection Agency inspectors found that ninety-one percent of inspected Colorado growers were in violation of pesticide safety laws.

A front page article about the report was printed in the Denver Post on August 19 and can be found at: http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36%257E53%257E805278%257E,00.html

The report can be obtained by contacting Kimi Jackson, Equal Justice Works Fellow
Colorado Legal Services 970- 970-353-7554,
kjackson@colegalserv.org