Proposes Farmworker Protections, Releases New Pesticide Injury Data
(Beyond Pesticides, February 28, 2006) On the heels of announcing the most recent data and trends in pesticide-related illness and injuries, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has vowed to develop new regulations to protect farmworkers. The proposed rules will: Require pesticide applicators to notify the grower before and after a chemical is used, and re-notify if the scheduled application date changes; Require the grower to manage his property as if the application could occur anytime within a 24-hour time window; and, Require hired contractors and growers to assure prior notification for any employees who walk within one-quarter mile of a treated field.
The California Pesticide Illness Surveillance Program recently released its 2004 data showing no improvement from 2003 to 2004. Out of 1,238 investigations pesticide exposure was suspected or confirmed in 828 cases in 2004, while 1232 investigations in 2003 confirmed 802 cases related to pesticide exposure. Similarly, in San Joaquin County, officials investigated 64 cases two years ago, including 38 tied to pesticides while 61 investigations in 2003 yielded 32 pesticide-associated cases. According to the report, occupational exposures accounted for 91 percent of reports; more than half were related to non-agricultural pesticide use. For more details on the surveillance data, see Summary of Results from the California Pesticide Illness Surveillance Program [PDF, 192 kb].
California’s Pesticide Safety Program has required mandatory reporting of pesticide illnesses since 1971 and uses the information to develop information and programs to prevent injuries. According to DPR, the Worker Notification Regulations, due out later this year, are the product of discussions over several years among the agency, agricultural organizations, farm-worker advocates and pesticide-industry representatives.
Margaret Reeves, a senior scientist with the Pesticide Action Network in San Francisco, states, "The proposed rules do have some improvements. One of the most important makes the growers or owners responsible for notification of workers of applications." The consumer and worker advocacy group, however, objects to some other provisions under discussion.
While the incident trends may not yield significant new information, the investigation into the specific causes of illness reports will. In a study due later this year, DPR scientists evaluated illnesses linked to newer pyrethroids, a type of insecticide. This will be the first scientifically published report linking irritation symptoms among field workers (such as skin and respiratory problems) to some pyrethroid residues.
Other trend analyses under development include illnesses following structural applications, illnesses related to the fumigants chloropicrin, metam sodium and phosphine/phosphine-generating pesticides.