Farmworkers sue EPA over exposure to dangerous pesticides

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Several lawsuits have been filed against the Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of farmworkers. The lawsuits have to do with mandatory training for pesticide use.

They claim the EPA is delaying the release of new training materials designed to improve worker safety.

Revisions made in 2015 required farmworkers to undergo training for pesticide use every year instead of every five years.

The move was applauded by those seeking added protections for those who pick our fruits and vegetables.

Nayamin Martinez of the Central California Environmental Justice Network said, "They are human beings and these pesticides are dangerous chemicals that are meant to kill. The chemical doesn't make any difference killing a pest or killing someone or harming an individual."

Earthjustice attorney Hannah Chang added, "EPA is explicitly refusing to publish the notice of availability because they don't want the training to be mandatory."

Attorneys for the farmworkers say training would be required to be completed within six months of that notice.

California is among three states to join a lawsuit against the EPA headed by Scott Pruitt.

The suit contends the EPA isn't making new pesticide training material available. Chang said, "Their failure to do that means that there are tens of thousands of farmworkers around the country who are not getting the training they should be getting."

Martinez believes with so many seasonal workers coming in to work on Valley farms it's important pesticide safety training sessions become more common. She said, "Even with the regulations that we have in California that are more stringent than nationwide, we still are facing a lot of incidents where farmworkers are drifted and sprayed with very dangerous pesticides."

The EPA has not commented on the pesticide training lawsuits.
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