WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday proposed strengthening 20-year-old standards aimed at protecting farmworkers from toxic pesticides.
"The current rule is not working the way it should," said Jim Jones, head of the agency's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
The changes would bar almost anyone 16 and younger from handling the most toxic pesticides and require no-entry zones around fields to protect workers from drift and fumes. Farms would also have to post no-entry signs to prohibit workers from entering fields until pesticide residues declined to safe levels.
Farms would also have to provide annual training sessions on pesticide risk to workers, including how to protect their families when they return home with clothes and shoes potentially laced with pesticides. Now, farmworkers receive training once every five years.
Farms staffed with family members would continue to be exempt.
The EPA says that between 1,200 and 1,400 cases of pesticide exposure are reported each year at farms, nurseries and other agricultural operations covered by the current standards. But the EPA says that 20 to 90 percent more cases are not being reported.