EPA finalizes tighter farmworker pesticide regulations

EPA finalizes tighter farmworker pesticide regulations

EPA finalizes 2014 proposal to adjust farmworker pesticide protections

Following up on a plan first proposed in February, 2014, the U.S. EPA on Monday finalized tighter pesticide exposure rules for U.S. farmworkers.

The updated standards apply to commercial farms and will be effective within about 14 months. They revise the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, last updated in 1992.

EPA will collaborate with the Department of Labor to implement the changes.

"From state and local partners, to the farmworker community, to farmers, ranchers, and growers—we’ve learned what works to protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure, and where we need to do more," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in a joint statement.

EPA finalizes 2014 proposal to adjust farmworker pesticide protections (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

"We’re confident that today’s revisions will protect our strong farm economy and family farming traditions."

Key changes, according to EPA, include annual mandatory training for farmworkers on the protections available to them and instructions that aim to reduce take-home exposure from pesticides.

The regulation also includes expanded mandatory posting of no-entry signs for some pesticides and no-entry application-exclusion zones up to 100 feet surrounding pesticide application equipment.

While family farms are exempt from the rule, workers under 18 years old on commercial farms are legally unable to handle any pesticides. This is a change from the original regulation, which provides no minimum age requirement, and the 2014 proposal, which suggested the threshold for pesticide handling be 16 years old.

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EPA finalizes tighter farmworker pesticide regulations

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In a press call, McCarthy said the change to 18 years old was in response to public comments citing scientific research that questioned impacts of pesticide exposure on developing neurological systems.

To be eligible for the family farm exemption, workers must be immediate family to the farm owner, including a spouse, parent, step-parent, foster parent, child, step-child, foster child, sibling, in-law, grandparent, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew or first cousin.

The rule also covers other concerns, like access to records and record-keeping. The new requirement asks employers to provide more than one way for workers to access pesticide application information and makes two-year recordkeeping mandatory for pesticide applications.

Additional changes stipulate amount of water needed for routine washing or decontamination, as well as tweaks to personal protective equipment requirements.

EPA says between 1,800 and 3,000 occupational incidents involving pesticide exposure are reported from the farms, forests, nurseries and greenhouses covered by the Worker Protection Standard.

"The new Worker Protection Standard will help ensure strong, sensible safeguards for farmworkers, their families, and the agricultural community across America," McCarthy and Perez note.

For more on the changes, visit the EPA Pesticide Worker Safety webpage.

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