According to a U.S. government study, the pesticide poisoning incidence rate among U.S. agricultural workers is 39 times higher than the incidence rate found in all other industries combined. Clearly current regulations have failed to adequately protect farmworkers and their families. California farmworker poisoning data illustrate the extent of this nationwide problem, reporting hundreds of poisoning cases each year. Hundreds more — possibly thousands — go unreported due to workers’ fear of job loss and/or retaliation. Further exacerbating the problem is the fact that many states have weak or nonexistent systems for reporting poisoning incidents.
In addition to direct poisonings, farmworkers face elevated risks of cancer, birth defects, infertility, and neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease as a result of exposure to hazardous pesticides. And farmworker children are disproportionately affected by pesticide exposure as demonstrated in recent studies showing that even low levels of exposure can lead to deficits in attention, memory and intellectual functioning.