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EPA Toughens Pesticide Exposure Rules

On Monday, the EPA announced a final rule to protect some 2 million farmworkers from exposure to pesticides, strengthening the 1992 Agricultural Worker Protection Standard.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told reporters that the agency will work with state governments to enforce the new rule, which won’t take effect until 14 months after its pending publication in the Federal Register.

For the first time ever, children under the age of 18 will not be allowed to handle pesticides. McCarthy said children of family-operated farms would be exempt. Training of farmworkers on the protections offered them will take place annually instead of once every five years, and farms will be required to keep records of worker training for two years.

McCarthy said that between 1,800 and 3,000 farmworker-exposure incidents are reported each year, and that there is widespread underreporting.

“Farmworkers deserve to be healthy and safe while they earn a living,” she said.

The American Farm Bureau Federation said Monday that it supports safe use of pesticides, but that the rule should be science-based.

“Farm Bureau shares the agency’s desire to protect workers, but we are concerned that the agency is piling regulatory costs on farmers and ranchers that bear little if any relation to actual safety issues,” said Paul Schlegel, director of environment and energy policy for AFBF.

Other changes in the rule:

— Expanded training includes instructions to reduce take-home exposure from pesticides on work clothing and other safety topics.

— Expanded mandatory posting of no-entry signs for the most hazardous pesticides. The signs prohibit entry into pesticide-treated fields until residues decline to a safe level.

— New no-entry application-exclusion zones up to 100 feet surrounding pesticide application equipment will protect workers and others from exposure to pesticide overspray.

— Requirement to provide more than one way for farmworkers and their representatives to gain access to pesticide application information and safety data sheets. They need to be centrally posted, or available by requesting records.

While farm groups familiar with the rule don’t expect it to apply to much of the mechanically harvested grain crops in the Midwest, McCarthy told Monday that there are farmworkers in every state, and that the new rule “will apply to all farms in the U.S."

More details can be found here.

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