Attorney General Becerra: Trump Administration Removes Critical Public Health Protections for Agricultural Workers in the Midst of Pandemic
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today condemned the Trump Administration’s announcement of a final rule removing critical safeguards for agricultural workers and the public during the application of dangerous pesticides. The rule weakens the protections provided by the 2015 Worker Protection Standards, lessening application exclusion zone requirements for the area surrounding pesticide application and limiting the suspension of pesticide application if workers or members of the public come within the designated area. The 2015 Worker Protection Standards help protect agricultural workers, pesticide handlers, and nearby residents from damaging health effects associated with exposure to pesticides. Despite evidence to the contrary, the EPA attempts to claim that weakening these standards will not disproportionately impact the health and environment of minority and low-income communities.
“More than six months into this unprecedented public health crisis, the Trump Administration's failure to properly value and protect our essential workers has never been more apparent,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Agricultural workers need more protections not less. That’s why today’s announcement is particularly appalling."
The agricultural sector ranks among the most hazardous industries nationally, with workers experiencing particularly high rates of injuries and illness. Exposure to harmful levels of pesticides causes adverse effects to farmworkers, pesticide handlers, and their families. Acute symptoms from overexposure to pesticides vary, and can range from mild skin irritation to more severe effects, including headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and impaired vision. Severe acute exposures can result in seizures, respiratory depression, loss of consciousness, and death. Chronic exposure may result in increased instances of cancer, including blood cancers, prostate cancer, and lung cancer, as well as respiratory and neurological effects, including asthma, chronic bronchitis, and Parkinson’s disease. Pesticides can also cause harm to the children of farmworkers; exposure is associated with increased birth defects, fetal defects, and delayed mental and behavior development.
Attorney General Becerra has stood firm in the fight for protections for farmworkers and their families. Earlier this year, Attorney General Becerra joined a multistate coalition in urging the EPA to reconsider its proposal to roll back the 2015 Worker Protection Standards. In August 2019, Attorney General Becerra sued the EPA over its failure to regulate pesticides after the EPA refused to make a required safety finding for the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos. After Attorney General Becerra filed a lawsuit in 2018 challenging the EPA’s decision to suspend critical safeguards for agricultural workers, the EPA backed down and announced that it would implement the safeguards protecting against exposure to pesticides.