By Mayra Barrios
Stockton, CA – Local growers and farmworkers participated in the “Spray Safe” program to prevent pesticide exposure incidents on February 8, 2012, at the Robert J. Cabral Ag Center.
“As farmers, we know it is our responsibility to use pesticides in the safest possible manner to protect our employees and our community,” said Brad Kissler, Chair of the Spray Safe Planning Committee.
Farmworkers and their families are perhaps among the most affected by pesticide use.
Farmworkers come into frequent contact with pesticide when harvesting the crops, and many live in communities near the application of toxic pesticides.
Many of these communities are found across the San Joaquin County, in towns like Linden, where pesticide may drift and water contamination may also occur.
Because the use of pesticides may lead to serious risks of short- and long- term illness, “It is important to communicate with the employees, especially the ones that live on the ranches,” says Kissler, “if they are spraying something, make sure they understand what they are spraying and when to re-enter the field. “
“Employers are required by law to train their workers every year” says Vegetation Management Specialist, Scott Johnson.
For Scott Hudson, San Joaquin County Ag Commissioner, whose office is charged with enforcing the numerous regulations in San Joaquin County with respect to pesticide applications, the only way to enforce the state regulations is by doing inspections out in the fields, which “90 percent of the time are unexpected.”
“We go out there and make sure that the workers are protected, make sure the bosses know what the pesticide poisoning symptoms are, make sure that all the workers are trained.”
For Lodi resident, Crispin Abarca, this was the first time he attended a “Spray Safe” program, saying it “is good for us to learn and to be prepared.”
Abarca works in a grape vineyard in Lodi, one of county’s leading crops, which made close to 250 million in revenue in 2010, according to the Agricultural Crop Report for the County.
According to the “Fields of Poison 2002: California Farmworkers and Pesticides” farmworkers continue to face pesticide exposure risk with few protections.
“The use of hazardous pesticides and inadequate regulations continue to be a seriously threaten California farmworkers health and wellbeing” says the report.
The exact number of workers injured each year by pesticides is unknown because there is no national reporting system, but states like California and Washington do have state incident reporting systems.
Compared to other counties the number of agriculture pesticide poisoning in the San Joaquin County is on the low side, says Hudson. “An estimate of 5 to 10 non-serious cases a year, mostly from applicators.”