Grijalva Praises Update to Farmworker Protections After More than 20 Years
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) praised the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for finalizing a new Worker Protection Standard (WPS), which protects farmworkers who harvest our food from the harmful effects of pesticides.
The current WPS has not been significantly updated in over two decades. The revision finalized today will benefit approximately 2.7 million farmworkers. The announcement comes after Rep. Grijalva led a series of efforts pushing for a comprehensive update, including a letter sent this past Friday that 69 of his colleagues signed.
“Farmworkers spend long days laboring in fields across our country to produce our food – employers must ensure they have adequate information and protection when they are working with dangerous chemicals, plain and simple,” Rep. Grijalva said. “It’s time that farmworkers have the same protections afforded to them that workers in other industries have had for years.”
The newly announced changes– including a first-time minimum age of 18 for pesticide handlers, improved access to pesticide information, expanded worker training, andanti-retaliation provisions – will all contribute to a safer work environment.
“For the first time in more than two decades, EPA is taking steps today to ensure millions of farmworkers and their families won’t face unknown health hazards simply for showing up for work each day,”Rep. Grijalva continued. “This long-fought victory belongs to those workers and coalitions who fought to have their voices heard. Their efforts will protect millions of farmworkers today, and millions more in the future. I look forward to working with EPA to ensure meaningful implementation and enforcement of the new standards.”
According to EPA, ten to twenty thousand farmworkers suffer pesticide poisoning annually. Exposure to pesticides increases the risk of chronic health problems among adult and child farmworkers, such as cancer, infertility, neurological disorders, and respiratory conditions. There are approximately 500,000 child farmworkers in the U.S., farmworker children face increased risks of cancer and birth defects. Research also shows that both farmworkers and their children may suffer decreased intellectual functioning from even low levels of exposure to organophosphate insecticides, which are widely used in agriculture.
Rep. Grijalva efforts leading up to the final rule:
· Feb. 6, 2014, Rep. Grijalva led a lettersigned by 51 of his colleaguesto EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy urging theagencyto move forward with needed reforms.
· Feb. 22, 2014, EPA released newly proposed Worker Protection Standard (WPS) to safeguard the health of agricultural workers exposed to pesticides.
· Aug. 18, 2014, Rep. Grijalva led 70 of his colleagues in submitting comments to EPA calling for the revised standards to include essential safeguards.
· June 16, 2015, Rep. Grijalva hosted a round table with impacted farmworkers on Capitol Hill to receive first hand testimony of exposures.
· Sep. 25, 2015, Rep. Grijalva led a letter signed by 69 of his colleagues calling for Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to finalize meaningful and enforceable protections for farmworkers, including parity with workers in other industries and for a central location for information to be posted.