Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Farmworkers Association of Florida: Take Action Now!

Help Farmworkers With a Win!


Help Protect the Health and Safety of Farmworkers

[Deadline is June 28, 2011!]

It is not too often that we have something that we have a chance of winning in protecting the health and safety of farmowrkers. That is why, we are asking for your support in helping us win a victory by notifying the EPA to require bilingual labels on agricultural and other pesticides. SEE LETTER AT BOTTOM!

We at the Farmworker Association of Florida and other social justice, labor, health, and humanitarian organizations would like the EPA to integrate a simple piece of legislation that would improve the health and safety of farmworkers across the nation. Most pesticide labels are still only in English, whereas most of the people who apply pesticides are Hispanic immigrants, and thus are much more likely to sufficiently understand labels in Spanish rather than English. Providing written warnings and instructions in the language that farmworkers are most likely to understand will greatly reduce the probability of accidental exposure.

YOU CAN HELP! You can submit your own comments to EPA by going to the direct link at: http://www.regulations.gov/#!searchResults;rpp=50;po=0;s=EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0014.

The original EPA announcement in the Federal Registrar can be found at http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0014-0001.

You can, also, sign the on-line petition at http://action.panna.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=7026.

While employers are required to provide workers with appropriate Personal Protective Equipment and to properly train handlers and applicators on the correct use of pesticide products, this is currently the best-case scenario. The farmworkers inability to check what they have been told against required written warnings and instructions on a pesticide label leaves them without a method of checks and balances to ensure they are doing all that is necessary to best protect their personal health and safety.

Our opportunity now is critical to helping improve the health and safety of the nations farmworkers. We have been working with other farmworker groups around the country on this, and now EPA has responded by opening up a public comment period to solicit input from all sectors in the country. It might be our only opportunity to do this for a long while, so we are trying to get a critical mass of official comments to the EPA from a diversity of organizations and farmworker supporters.



We only have until June 28th when the comment period ends. So, we are working hard to try to get as many favorable comments as possible. We know that the pesticide companies are going to try to give all kinds of reasons and excuses why they cannot translate pesticide labels into Spanish. We have to be ready with hundreds of comments from farmworker supporters to demonstrate the importance of bilingual pesticide labels to farmworker health and safety.

Thank you for your help! Thank you for working for social and environmental justice for farmoworkers!


Katie Weyrauch
Pesticide Re-evaluation Division
Office of Pesticide Programs
Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.
Washington, DC 20460 (Date)

Dear Ms. Weyrauch:

I am writing on behalf of [your organization] in support of the proposal to provide pesticide labels in English and Spanish. [Describe your organizations mission and your interest in bilingual labeling, e.g. improving farmworker safety, protecting the environment]

Requiring pesticide manufacturers to label their products in English and Spanish will increase pesticide user safety. Pesticide labels communicate information critical to the prevention of harm to human health and the environment. This includes warnings and precautionary statements, first aid information, personal protective equipment, and directions for safe use. According to national surveys, the agricultural workforce is overwhelmingly foreign born and Spanish speaking, and most cannot read English. Workers who handle pesticides thus are unable to understand information contained on the labels that is critical to protecting human health and the environment. Providing pesticide handlers access to this information in a language they can read and understand will greatly reduce the risks of needless and dangerous exposures to themselves, to other workers, and to the environment.

Workers inability to read pesticide labels puts them at risk. In a recent study in Washington State, farmworkers who could not read English exhibited higher rates of pesticide exposure than workers who could read English.

Current EPA regulations seem to recognize the prevalence of Spanish speakers in the workforce but do next to nothing to address this reality. Instead, they place heavy burdens on both workers and employers to provide their own translations. The following statement appears in Spanish on labels of the two most toxic categories of pesticides: If you do not understand the label, find someone to explain it to you in detail. 40 CRF 156.206(e). In short, the current labeling requirements are grossly inadequate to protect Spanish-speaking farmworkers.

Puerto Rico is an example both of how Spanish translations are feasible and why bilingual labeling is needed. Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs) sold in Puerto Rico have Spanish labels, which shows it is feasible for pesticide manufacturers to translate their labels. However, non-RUPs can be sold in Puerto Rico with English labels, even though Spanish is the official language. There is important safety information on non-RUP labels, and it should be written in a language that users can read.

Bilingual labeling is both a fundamental and practical means of protecting workers health and environmental safety. Pesticide manufacturers already translate many of their labels into Spanish and other languages in order to sell them internationally. In addition, Canada recently implemented a bilingual labeling requirement for pesticides (French and English).

We urge the EPA to adopt regulations to require pesticide manufacturers to translate labels into Spanish. This is a common sense approach that recognizes the realities of todays agricultural workforce and would provide increased protections to workers, their families, rural communities and the environment.


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