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Pesticide Continues to Sicken Farmworkers After Attempted Ban Fails

Friday, December 28, 2018 | 1001 | 0 | 38 min read

A pesticide that has sickened farmworkers and others as it drifts through the air remains in use despite an attempt by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year to ban it for agricultural purposes.

The EPA’s attempted ban of the pesticide, called chlorpyrifos, was canceled in March 2017 by Scott Pruitt, who was appointed to head the agency by President Donald Trump.

Hundreds in California, mostly farmworkers, have been acutely sickened by chlorpyrifos in the past 15 years, according to a New York Times News Service story published Thursday in the Las Vegas Sun. Most of the illnesses are caused by “drift,” which occurs when the pesticide floats through the air from an area where it has been applied.

The incidents have slowed since 2015, when state regulators adopted licensing and training requirements for chlorpyrifos use.

But the accidents haven’t stopped, and have included at least a half-dozen reported episodes of drift in California. In an incident in May 2017, 36 cabbage pickers at a Kern County site were sickened and another was sent to the hospital, the news service reported. The woman who was hospitalized filed a workers’ compensation claim.

An investigation by the Kern County agricultural commissioner’s office found that a company had applied chlorpyrifos about a mile from the cabbage field. The company was fined $30,250.

In a July incident, 10 workers in a Solano County sunflower field reportedly were sickened when chlorpyrifos apparently drifted from a neighboring almond orchard.

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