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`Twenty two farm workers including three pregnant women were rushed to hospitals last week afterbeing poisoned by a mixtur...
United Farm Workers, on Pesticide Poisoning of Grape Workers," UFW Press Release, September 4,1996.Pesticide Action Networ...
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Farm Workers Poisoned in Pesticide Drift Accident


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Farm Workers Poisoned in Pesticide Drift Accident

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Farm Workers Poisoned in Pesticide Drift Accident

  1. 1. `Twenty two farm workers including three pregnant women were rushed to hospitals last week afterbeing poisoned by a mixture of toxic pesticides while harvesting grapes near Bakersfield, California,according to United Farm Workers (UFW). A crop dusting plane was applying pesticides to a nearbycotton field when the accident occurred. It is estimated that as many as 225 additional farm workerswere also exposed to the chemicals, which drifted into the grape fields. Victims exhibited a range ofpesticide poisoning symptoms including vomiting and irritated eyes and noses.According to county officials, the plane was spraying cotton for mites and aphids with a mixture ofLorsban (chlorpyrifos), Danitol (fenpropathrin) and Curacron (profenofos). A slight breeze carried thepesticides toward the grape field where the chemicals drizzled down on workers, many of whom triedto escape by running away. Most of the affected workers were treated at local hospitals and released thesame day. One pregnant woman was held overnight for observation.A county agricultural commissioner stated that the poisoning was "a somewhat unique occurrence," andthat "for a crop duster plane to affect a mass of people, thats not common at all." However, UFWcharged that pesticide drift is very common, and stated that "thousands of farm workers in vineyardsand fields are exposed to toxic poisons every day -- often without their knowledge."The crop dusting company responsible for the accident maintains that the pilot was experienced andfollowed regulated pesticide application methods when he sprayed the cotton field. According to thecounty officials, the chemicals were registered for use on cotton and no prior notification of thespraying was required.Dr. Marion Moses of the California based Pesticide Education Center pointed out that even though cropdusters may follow current laws there are still many dangers. "Pesticide molecules follow the law ofphysics, not the rules of the state of California," she said. Several studies have indicated that 50 to 75%of pesticides applied by aircraft miss their target, and some scientists believe that pesticides applied byair drift at least five times further than they do in ground spraying. In 1994 there were 155 possiblecases of pesticide exposure from drift near farms, most from aerial spraying, according to the CaliforniaDepartment of Pesticide Regulations (DPR).Danitol is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a Category I acute toxin, the mostpotent class of toxic chemicals. Lorsban and Curacron are both classified as Category II toxins.Chlorpyrifos, the active ingredient in Lorsban, is one of the most widely used insecticides in the U.S.and is also one of the leading causes of pesticide poisonings in the U.S., according to the NorthwestCoalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP). Chlorpyrifos causes a range of neurological problemsand has been linked to human birth defects, fetal death in animals and damage to human and animalreproductive systems. Of reported agricultural pesticide poisonings in California between 1984 and1990, chlorpyrifos ranked fifth in systemic and respiratory illnesses and sixth in acute illnesses.Approximately three million pounds were applied in California for agricultural purposes in 1994,according to DPR.Sources: Los Angeles Times, September 5 and September 7, 1996; "Preventing Pesticide-related Illnessin California Agriculture," Bill Pease et. al., 1993; "Environmental and Economic Costs of PesticideUse," David Pimentel et. al., 1992; Pesticide Use Report, Annual 1994, Indexed by Chemical, DPR,1996; The Bakersfield Californian, September 5, 1996; "Statement from Arturo Rodriguez, President,
  2. 2. United Farm Workers, on Pesticide Poisoning of Grape Workers," UFW Press Release, September 4,1996.Pesticide Action Network North Americahttp://panna.orgNational Farm Worker Ministry - Episcopal Farmworker Ministryhttp://www.nfwm.orgFarm Workers Sacrifice their Health to Put Food on Our Tables Management at the Crossroadshttp://pmac.netUnited Farm Workers,519 Main Street,Watsonville, CA 95076~