Farmworker Health Facts
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  • 1. North Carolina Farmworker Health Facts Farm labor ranks as one of the top three most dangerous occupations in the United States. In addition to hazards in the fields, farmworkers and their families face unique burdens on their physical and mental health. North Carolina’s leading industry is agriculture, yet farmworkers are among the most underserved residents in the state.Occupational Risks General Health IssuesInjuries on the Job: Injuries in farm Poor Field Sanitation: Employers who Chronic Illness: Farmworkers suffer fromwork commonly result from repetitive have ten or fewer workers are not higher blood pressure compared with themovements and stooping with few required by law to provide access to general public, especially for men andbreaks, operating dangerous equipment toilets and clean water during the long women aged 20-44.13 This puts them atand carrying heavy loads. Farmworkers work day, and some employers ignore increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.5suffer from high levels of heat stress, existing field sanitation regulations.8musculoskeletal pain and respiratory Workers have resorted to hand-washing Food Insecurity: Nearly five out of tenillness. At least one in four farmworkers and drinking water from irrigation farmworker households in NC cannotreport having been injured on the job in ditches and ponds containing run-off afford enough food for their families.14their lifetime,1 and the fatality rate for from pesticide-ridden fields when therefarmworkers in NC is higher than the is no other water source.8 Womens Health: Nationwide, less thannational average.2 half of pregnant women in farmworker Substandard Housing: A lack of clean families interviewed in 2000 had receivedChemical and Nicotine Exposure: facilities for food preparation, bathing health care during their first trimester.15Farmworkers endure the highest rate of after work, and washing laundry, plus atoxic chemical injuries and skin disorders susceptibility to pesticide drift from Childrens’ Health: 53% of children inof any workers in the country.3 Nausea, nearby fields, exposes farmworker migrant farmworker families in Easternvomiting, cramping and itchy/burning families to the "take-home" affect of North Carolina have an unmet medicaleyes are known short-term effects of pesticides.4 Researchers found increased need, and the need is proportionallyacute pesticide poisoning while long- levels of pesticides in NC farmworker higher for preschool aged children.16term health effects of pesticide exposure children compared with the generalinclude cancer, neurological disorders, population.4 Lack of clean water is the Infectious Diseases: Nationally,miscarriage, memory loss, and likely cause of very high rates of farmworkers face six times the risk of otherdepression.4 Skin conditions such as parasites and gastrointestinal infections groups of contracting tuberculosis. 17 Thedermatitis are not only linked to among farmworker families.11 high incidences of HIV and other sexuallypesticide exposure but to the handling Overcrowded housing is common and transmitted diseases in farmworkers areof other chemical agents and plants. increases the risk of infectious diseases attributed by some to isolation, poverty,Nationwide, nearly half of farmworkers and other health problems.8,12 and limited knowledge about how areport having skin rashes.5 Green disease is transmitted.5tobacco sickness, or nicotine poisoningthrough the skin, is experienced at leastonce in a growing season by 24% of “Farmworkers feed thetobacco workers.6 In just one day,workers can absorb the amount of world. I think ifnicotine found in 36 cigarettes.7 everybody knows theExtreme Conditions: Farmworkers often importance oflabor in adverse weather conditions,including extreme temperatures, rain, farmworkers they willand the hot sun.8 Nationwide,environmental heat is responsible for want to keep themclaiming the lives of 423 workers healthy.”between 1992-2006; in NC, heat strokekilled seven farmworkers within a five- --Guillermo Noguera, Health Outreachyear period.9,10 Coordinator, Columbus County, NC
  • 2. Oral Health: Dental problems present aserious unmet health need forfarmworkers and their children. Nearly Heat Fatalities Among Farmworkers g in three major agricultural states (1992-2006)one-third of NC farmworkers in a studysample have missing and/or fracturedteeth, but only one in five had seen a Between 1992-2006, 3dentist within the past year.18 there were 423 (per 100,000) reported workerMental health: Nationally, 40% of deaths from 2.5farmworkers are depressed and 30% environmentalexperience anxiety.19 Causes of strain on heat in U.S. 2mental health include isolation, limited 24% of these were Death Ratesocial support, separation from family in agriculture 1.5members, job and financial stress, poor and related industries.housing and unhealthy working 1environments. Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (2008). Heat-related .5Barriers to Care deaths among crop workers, United States, 1992-2006.Of the more than 150,000 California Florida North Carolinafarmworkers in the state, less than20% receive health care.12, 20 Thehealth needs of the statesfarmworker families persist due in part Insurance: 85% of farmworkers in theto several barriers, most of which are U.S. have no health insurance, and nine “Many farmworkersnon-financial. 20% of farmworkers inEastern NC lack information about out of ten children in farmworker come for the first time, families are uninsured.15 The majority ofwhere to go for health care.16 these workers do not qualify for social and don’t know there isFrequent mobility: About one-third of services because of immigration status,farmworkers change residence over the even though many live significantly a clinic, don’t knowsummer, moving within and out of the below the federal poverty line.5 there is a health outreachstate for employment.21 Mobility is abarrier to receiving long-term care and Workers compensation: The majority of worker who can help NC farmworkers are not covered bytime-sensitive health services such as workers’ compensation. Only them…It’s veryprenatal care for women and treatment agricultural employers that hire H2-Afor chronic illness. workers or more than ten employees important, not just forTransportation: In Eastern NC, 80% of are required to provide the coverage. one person but for thefarmworker families with children lack Fear: Anti-immigrant sentiment maytransportation.16 Many do not have a prevent workers from getting treatment whole community.”drivers license or car insurance and are for illness or injury, necessary follow-up --Margarita, mother and farmworker inoften dependent on their employer to attention, or routine health care. Oxford, NCdrive them to medical facilities.22 Culture: Cultural beliefs and perceptionsLanguage: The majority of NC of the U.S. health care system mightfarmworkers are Spanish-speaking cause a delay in farmworkers seeking(94%),12 and the primary language for medical care and some discrepancies inat least 10-15% of workers in NC is an types of treatment.5indigenous language.5 Few healthdelivery sites in NC have adequateSpanish language resources, let alonethe capacity for other languages.18Sources 1 Mines, R., et al, 2001; 2 US Dept of Ag, 1999; 3 Natl Institute for Occupational Safety & Health, 2004; 4 McCauley, L. et al, 2006; 5 Arcury,T. & Quandt, S., 2007;6 Arcury, T. et al, 2001; 7 Hipke, M.E., 1993; 8 National Center for Farmworker Health, n.d.; 9 MMWR, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 2008; 10 Mirabelli, M.C. &Richardson, D.B., 2005; 11 Cielselki, S.D. et al, 1992; 12 Triantafillou, S.A., 2003; 13 Villarejo, D. et al, 2000; 14 Quandt, S. et al, 2006; 15 Rosenbaum, S. & Shin, P., 2005; 16Weathers, A.. et al, 2004; 17 MMWR, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 1992; 18 Quandt, S.A. et al, 2007; 19 Hovey, J.D. & Magaña, G.G., 2000; 20 Larson, A.,2000; 21 Quandt, S.A. et al, 2002; 22 National Agricultural Workers Survey 2001-2002, US Dept of Labor Full citations available at www.ncfarmworkers.org. Published by theNC Farmworker Institute with funds from the Duke Endowment, 2008