By Dr. Mercola
Worldwide, more than 5 billion pounds of pesticides are sprayed onto crops each year,1 and more than 75 percent of the US population has detectable levels of organophosphates (OPs), which are among the most commonly used insecticides on American farms.
Your diet is one of the most likely routes of exposure – unless you’re a farmer or live near an agricultural area. For farm workers, their children, and those who live in farming communities, pesticide exposure is a fact of life, but one that puts their health in serious jeopardy.
The next time you’re at the grocery store deciding between organic or conventional strawberries, realize that the decision affects far more than your own health. For the farm workers spraying those fields, and the children living and going to school near them, the pesticide exposure will be far greater than it will be for you.
Most of the farm workers are forced to work in these hazardous conditions in order to feed their own families, but that’s because pesticide-laden conventional produce is still accepted and dominates the market.
Ultimately, a shift to an organic, more sustainable food supply would make all the difference – not only for the families that eat the food but also for the farm workers who grow it.
Farm Workers Are Exposed to High Levels of Pesticides
A recent report from Farmworker Justice highlighted just how bad the pesticide exposure has become.2 Up to 20,000 farm workers are poisoned by pesticides each year, according to data from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The actual number is likely far higher, as many of the workers may not seek medical care or may be misdiagnosed if they do seek treatment. There is also no coordinated national incident reporting system to track such exposures. Despite this, pesticide exposures cause farm workers more chemical-related injuries and illnesses than any other workforce nationwide. According to the report:3
“Farmworkers are exposed to pesticides in a variety of ways. Workers who perform hand labor tasks in treated areas risk exposure from direct spray, aerial drift, or contact with pesticide residues on the crop or soil.
Workers who mix, load, or apply pesticides can be exposed to pesticides due to spills, splashes, and defective, missing, or inadequate protective equipment.
Even when not working in the fields, farmworker families, especially children, are also at risk of elevated pesticide exposure. Workers bring pesticides into their homes in the form of residues on their tools, clothes, shoes, and skin. They inadvertently expose their children through a hug if they cannot shower after work.
The close proximity of agricultural fields to residential areas results in aerial drift of pesticides into farmworkers’ homes, schools, and playgrounds. Some schoolyards are directly adjacent to fields of crops that are sprayed with pesticides.
Pesticide exposure is an unavoidable reality for farmworkers and their families because pesticides are in the air they breathe, the water they drink, the food they eat, and the soil they cultivate.”