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Pesticides: A Health Hazard for Consumers and Farm Workers

How pesticides affect you, the consumer

Most food is grown using conventional agriculture which relies heavily on the use of pesticides. [1]  According the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Laboratory studies show that pesticides can cause health problems, such as birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and other effects.” [2]  Children are more likely to suffer harmful effects from exposure and “(w)omen who were exposed to DDT as girls are 5 times more likely to develop breast cancer.” [3]

According to the Pesticide Action Network (PAN):

“93% of Americans tested by the CDC had metabolites of chlorpyrifos — a nuerotoxic insectide — in their urine. Banned from home use because of its risks to children, chlorpyrifos is part of a family of pesticides (organophosphates) linked to ADHD.” [3]

Even with these staggering statistics pesticides are deemed as ‘safe’ in small amounts since they don’t appear as residue on food. However, there hasn’t been adequate research to prove that pesticides, even in reduced exposure, pose health risks.

Scrubbing or washing produce won’t remove any of the harmful residue since it is inside of the food by way of soil absorption.  To protect you and your family, choose USDA 100% certified organic food.

Read more about the use of pesticides at the Pesticide Action Network (PAN).

Are farm workers the bottom of the food chain?

The EPA regulates pesticide use, but they don’t track pesticide-related ailments on a national level.  This leads to a lack of accountability for the harm that pesticides incur on farm workers.

Federal records show that the EPA “estimates that 10,000-20,000 physician-diagnosed pesticide poisonings occur each year among the approximately 2 million US agricultural workers.”[4]

The EPA depends on each state to document incidents, but workers aren’t putting their names to complaints due to their rational fear of consequences, including job loss.

Working with pesticides is an occupational hazard, as well as a health hazard.  Since workers lack leverage against exposure to pesticides, farm owners need to be responsible and held accountable for exposing their workers to pesticides.  Currently, there is no law, or rule, requiring accountability on the part of the grower.  Though the average farm worker is a white male [5], pesticide information and training should also be provided in Spanish.

There needs to be new studies that cover pesticide exposure on a national level, and the EPA should be required to enact and reinforce strict standards of pesticide usage and accountability.

sources:

[1] http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/riskassess.htm

[2] http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/food/risks.htm

[3] http://www.panna.org/issues/food-agriculture/pesticides-on-food

[4] http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/06/pesticides-farm-workers-poison-epa

[5] http://foodchainworkers.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Hands-That-Feed-Us-Report.pdf

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This entry was posted on July 9, 2012 by in Farm & Ag, Food Chain & Industry Workers, Pesticides.

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