New federal rules aim to protect farm workers from the risks associated with exposure to pesticides, and advocates in New York are applauding the changes. Now, children under 18 will not be allowed to handle pesticides. Adult farm workers will have to be trained each year on how to protect themselves from the chemicals used around them. They used to be trained every 5 years.
It’s been 23 years since the Environmental Protection Agency updated its standards.
Paola Betchart is a worker’s rights advocate at the Worker Justice Center of New York. She says advocacy organizations have been lobbying for the overdue changes.
“Workers that are in vulnerable situations because of their immigration status, they will definitely tend not to complain or tend not to talk about these issues. So, the exposures that they experience they go underreported,” says Betchart.
The standards also include provisions that keep employers from retaliating against whistle blowers.
Judith Enck is the EPA administrator for the region that includes New York State. She says the State Department of Agriculture and Markets will enforce the rules.
“We will be working with states to make sure that these regulations are first fully understood and then secondly fully enforced. Even one case of pesticide poisoning among a farm worker is unacceptable. So we’ve got to get this down to zero,” said Enck.
Farm owners and their immediate families are exempt from the new rules.