EPA Awards Grant to Help Farm Workers Reduce Pesticide Risks

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–January 26, 2012.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Monday that it is providing a $25,000 grant to the Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas (CATA) to reduce exposure to pesticides for farm workers in southern New Jersey. CATA, a Latino-led nonprofit organization, will educate migrant farm workers throughout the counties of Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem, New Jersey about the risks of pesticide exposure and how to protect their health during field work.

Farm work is demanding and dangerous physical labor. A 2008 study by a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researcher finds that the incidence rate of pesticide poisoning is extremely high among U.S. agricultural workers. An average of 57.6 out of every 100,000 agricultural workers experience acute pesticide poisoning, illness or injury each year, the same order of magnitude as the annual incidence rate of breast cancer in the United States. As a result of cumulative long-term exposures, they and their children are at risk of developing serious chronic health problems such as cancer, neurological impairments and Parkinson’s disease.

Southern New Jersey has a large population of migrant farm workers. For the past 20 years, CATA has managed an environmental program that provides information on pesticide protection, the reduction of harmful chemicals in the workplace and general health and safety training. The EPA funding to CATA will help farm workers implement worker protection standards and identify training needs. Under the project funded by the grant, the group will survey workers and train them using the We Work with Pesticides curriculum developed by the Farm Worker Health and Safety Institute and approved by the EPA.

“EPA environmental justice grants provide much needed funds to tackle local pollution problems in low income communities,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “Exposure to pesticides can have serious effects on people’s health. The grant to Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas will train migrant farm workers in southern New Jersey about steps they can take to better protect their health on the job.”

According to EPA, environmental justice means the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race or income, in the environmental decision-making process. Since 1994, the environmental justice small grants program has provided more than $23 million in funding to community-based nonprofit organizations and local governments working to address environmental justice issues in more than 1,200 communities. The grants further EPA’s commitment to expand the conversation on environmentalism and advance environmental justice in communities across the nation.

Though the grant program is an important and necessary tool to help solve the problem with environmental justice issues, much work still needs to be done on EPA’s behalf to effectively protect workers. A 2006 report released by the Inspector General (IG), EPA Needs to Conduct Environmental Reviews of Its Programs, Policies and Activities, found that senior management at EPA has not directed program and regional offices to conduct environmental justice reviews as required by the Environmental Justice Executive Order 12898. The report said, “Until these program and regional offices perform environmental justice reviews, the Agency cannot determine whether its programs cause disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on minority and low-income populations.” In late 2011, several farmworker groups filed a petition with EPA to implement stronger protections for farmworkers, with particular regard to health effects of exposure to toxic pesticides on the job.More information on EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grants program and a list of grantees, see: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/environmentaljustice/grants/ej-smgrants.html.

Our food choices have a direct effect on those who grow and harvest what we eat around the world. This is why it’s important to eat organic. USDA organic certification is the only system of food labeling that is subject to independent public review and oversight, assuring consumers that toxic, synthetic pesticides used in conventional agriculture are replaced by management practices focused on soil biology, biodiversity, and plant health. This eliminates commonly used toxic chemicals in the production and processing of conventional food, which harms farmworkers and farm families.

For more information on the importance of eating organic food for you, workers and the environment, check out Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience food guide and organic food program page.

Sources: EPA Press Release, beyondpesticides.org

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