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From November 28, 2005                                                                                                           

Victims of 2002 Pesticide Poisoning Win Lawsuit
(Beyond Pesticides, November 28, 2005) An immigrant farmworker community in Arvin, California has won a lawsuit filed against Kirschenmann Farms and Western Farm Service. The lawsuit was filed by 84 victims of pesticide poisoning that resulted from pesticide drift from a pesticide application on Kirschenmann Farms. Wester Farm Service, the Fresno-based applicator hired by the farm, was fined $60,000 by the state, however community members still felt that more needed to be done.

The poisoning took place on July 8th 2002 when the pesticide metam-sodium wafted into resident’s houses after being applied to carrot and potato fields on Kirschenmann Farm. Metam-sodium can cause headache, dizziness, irritation of eyes, nose and throat, nausea, diarrhea, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. It has also been identified as a developmental and reproductive toxin, as well as a probable carcinogen.

The results of the lawsuit came as a great victory; it is rare that communities sue for pesticide poisoning, particularly poor ones. The 84 Arvin residents have found some compensation as the two companies have been ordered to pay them a total of $775,000. Kirschenmann Farms is responsible for $275,000, while the remaining $500,000 is to be paid by Wester Farm Service.

Dr. Susan Kegley, senior scientist with Pesticide Action Network North America, commented that, “this settlement should send a message to pesticide applicators that poisoning people as a routine part of doing business is no longer acceptable. The fumigant pesticides especially are too hazardous to be used safely and should be phased out. When ‘accidents’ like this keep happening, it's no longer an accident, but a poorly designed system that ensures these such poisonings to keep happening will continue.”

The poisoning in Arvin is but one of many that happens all the time, particularly in agriculture heavy states such as California. In 2003 alone, 175 million pounds of pesticides were used in California. As a result of such heavy pesticide use pesticide poisoning, particularly from pesticide drift, is not uncommon: 170 people were poisoned in Earlimart in 1999, while 137 people fell sick as a result of a separate pesticide poisoning in Arvin in 2002, and just this past October 60 people in Salinas were poisoned by fumigants used on a nearby strawberry field.

Source: San Francisco Indymedia