Precautions urged to protect children of farm workers from pesticides

April 27th, 2004

To the Editor,

Thank you for pointing out the inability of rural populations to avoid absorption of toxic pesticides used in nearby fields. However, the article noted these compounds were found “…in the bodies of 92 percent of the workers tested and in 88 percent of the children tested.”, a statistic which does not vary greatly from the frequency with which pesticide residues have been found in the urine of city dwellers.

Threats posed by agricultural chemicals are mainly viewed in terms of dangers from residues left on foods. Attention must be paid to the drift of pesticides into yards and homes after applications via air and human “vectors” e.g. shoes, clothing etc.. Similarly, we must begin to measure drift following indoor applications in urban settings entering neighboring apartments and offices. After the use of a pesticide fogger in an apartment below my own made me severely ill in September of 2000, toxicological testing indicated such high levels of contamination in my household furnishings that I was required to discard all my possessions and move to a new apartment.

Regulatory agencies have no mandate to prevent or even measure this common method of pesticide exposure. Physicians remain largely ignorant of pesticide related illnesses. However, pesticides contaminate upholstery, carpets and clothing while bonding with housedust, allowing for the constant re-exposure of residents over the course of any given day.

Consumers can end this cycle of urban contamination by becoming aware of their frequency of exposures. Insist that your landlords and employers opt for safer, non-airborne forms of pest control and encourage the use of natural and preventive measures. Dangers to agricultural workers can be reduced by increased consumer demand for organic produce. Food production can be efficient using reduced and alternative means of pest control.

Barbara Rubin

Categories: Published

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