EPA Supports Environmental Justice for New Jersey Farm Workers
Continuing its renewed focus on environmental justice issues, the EPA has announced a $25,000 grant to help educate farm workers throughout southern New Jersey about the risks of pesticide exposure and how to protect their health during field work.
El Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas (CATA), a Latino-led migrant farm worker organization, will use the grant to survey workers and train them using the We Work with Pesticides curriculum, which was developed by the Farm Worker Health and Safety Institute and approved by the EPA. .
Toxic By Design
In its announcement about the grant, the EPA explains a point often omitted in public debates over the use and risks of pesticides in food:
Pesticides are intended to harm or kill pests and are toxic by design. They can be very harmful to people’s health depending on the toxicity of the pesticide and the level of exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control, doctors diagnose between 10,000 and 20,000 farm workers with pesticide poisonings each year. Workers can become exposed to toxic levels of pesticides during spills, direct spraying or pesticide drift. In addition, migrant farm workers may not be supplied protective gear needed to protect their health or the equipment they do receive is defective.
EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck said, "Exposure to pesticides can have serious effects on people’s health. The grant to Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas will train migrant farm workers in southern New Jersey about steps they can take to better protect their health on the job.”
Southern New Jersey has a large population of migrant farm workers, and for 20 years CATA has provided workers with information about pesticides, how to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals in the workplace, and general safety training. It also runs a Food Justice Project focused on boosting health and dietary choices in the local immigrant community, another important and promising endeavor:
CATA will develop a series of workshops around nutrition, engage with organic farmers in the Bridgeton area, set up an an organic farmers' market that is easily accessible, and finally cultivate a plot of land to be used by our membership to grow their own food that they can bring home to their families as well as sell their produce.