on Pesticides, Farmworkers and Birth Defects
(Beyond Pesticides, June 2, 2006) Technical reports released by state agencies in Florida and North Carolina show that the agencies are exploring the possible associations between pesticides and birth defects in response to the cases of three farmworkers workers employed by the same Florida company, Ag-Mart, Inc. The cases involved the births of three babies born with severe birth defects to farmworker woman (See Daily News). The report, released by the North Carolina Division of Public Health’s Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch (OEEB), evaluates the likely pesticide exposures for each of the three woman and the duration and timing of these exposures during the critical periods in their pregnancies.
A small but growing body of epidemiologic and toxicological literature informs their evaluations and provides a larger context for understanding the possible relationships between occupational pesticide exposure and birth defects. Environmental groups, such as the Agricultural Resources Center Pesticide Education Project (ARC/PESTED), feel the scientific literature in the North Carolina report may be too technical in nature for the lay reader, however they do feel that the material is relevant to the general public in understanding and preventing harm from exposure to toxic substances in the workplace and the broader environment. Therefore, ARC/PESTED produced a new annotated bibliography, Examining the Evidence on Pesticide Exposure and Birth Defects in Farmworkers: An Annotated Bibliography, with Resources for Lay Readers, that provides an overview of the current evidence for associations between pesticide exposure and birth defects in farmworkers. The bibliography also contains useful information for lay readers, including a glossary of technical terms, and a section on understanding epidemiological studies.
ARC/PESTED, in another report entitled Summary and Critique of North Carolina’s Report on Pesticides and Birth Defects Among Three Ag-Mart Workers, summarizes and critiques the North Carolina report. According to ARC/PESTED, although the report includes recommendations for strengthening pesticide enforcement at the NC Department of Agriculture, including the establishment of a state pesticide illness and injury surveillance program, improved education of farmworkers and physicians, and strengthening of the federal Worker Protection Standard (WPS), it does not make any specific recommendations for changing the practices of Ag-Mart, whose actions are at the core of the evaluation.
According to ARC/PESTED,
Ag-Mart is not a publicly held company that produces the majority of
the grape tomatoes in the United States, including an organic line known
as the Ugly Ripe Organic Tomatoes. The company is also the supplier
of tomatoes to eating establishments such McDonalds. See http://www.santasweets.com/home.php
for a list of their products.
ACTION: Write Ag-Mart and tell them that you want them
to protect farmworkers by stopping its use of hazardous pesticides that
are known to cause harm to pregnant woman and children.
Santa Sweets, Inc.
4006 N. Airport Road
Plant City, FL 33563-1108