23 farm workers rushed to hospital for pesticide poisoning

23 farm workers rushed to hospital for pesticide poisoning

From: “United Farm Workers” <ufwofamer@aol.com>


Twenty-three farm workers near Arvin, Calif. were seriously exposed to pesticides Thursday when chemicals being sprayed by an application company in a neighboring field drifted into the nearby vineyard where the grape workers were laboring.  Four women went into convulsions and all 23 workers were rushed to nearby hospitals.

Support a bill backed by the United Farm Workers that would protect these farm workers.

They fell like dead flies. That’s what farm worker María Calderón remembers from Thursday morning, about an hour after starting her 6:30 a.m. shift in the Arvin vineyard.

“I was scared,” said Calderón, 34, told the Bakersfield Californian newspaper.

Before she felt anything, Calderon’s co-worker, Maria Altamirano, 27, smelled something odd in the vineyard where she has worked for six years. It smelled like poison. They soon felt dizzy and sick to their stomachs. The field’s 23-woman crew ran from the invisible toxin. They gathered at the field’s edge on a dirt road. Four women went into convulsions.

“Why did they spray while we were working there?” one of them said, still numb and red-eyed from the pesticides.

Incidents like this must not continue. A UFW-supported pesticide bill is currently before the state Legislature. SB 879,  by state Sen. Martha Escutia, would require mandatory fines for pesticide safety violations that pose health or environmental hazards because warnings are ignored, with tragic consequences.

In fiscal year 2002-03 in Kern County, site of yesterday’s incident, the agricultural commissioner issued 152 warning letters, but only four fines. This lack of enforcement has led an acceptance of poisoning incidents such as this. SB 879 would require the county agricultural commissioners to truly enforce the law.

SB 879 would require initiation and completion of human illness investigations in no longer than 60 days, unless an explanation is provided for extending the timeline. SB 879 would require agricultural commissioners to initiate priority investigations within two days and submit a preliminary update to the DPR director and any individual harmed within 15 days. It would require mandatory civil penalties for each violation that creates an actual or a reasonably possible health or environmental hazard.

We ask for a YES vote on SB 879.

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United Farm Workers, 29700
Woodford-Tehachapi Rd., P.O. Box 62, Keene, CA 93531

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