Like many Americans, I didn’t always know a lot about growing or harvesting my food. I knew that it started on a farm and ended up in my grocery store. Over time, I learned that agricultural work is one of the toughest, riskiest and lowest paid jobs in the U.S. Now, I put my passion for farm safety to work here at EPA.
Across the nation this week, farm communities are working together to stay safe as part of Farm Safety and Health Week. Agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupations, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, with numerous risks to workers. Agricultural workers can also face potential chemical hazards. At EPA we’re working with our partners to help people understand how to be safe around farms, nurseries, and greenhouses.
For example, we work with federal, state, and non-profit agencies and associations to implement the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard. Our goal: reduce risks of pesticide poisonings and injuries among agricultural workers, pesticide handlers, and their families. We’re also improving this standard to better protect you in the future.
Organizations we work with provide training and support for agricultural communities. The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs trains people on the proper handling of pesticides. The Migrant Clinicians Network trains doctors and nurses on how to address the health concerns of farm workers and their families. And the National Pesticide Information Center offers a toll-free number for anyone to call with questions regarding pesticides and related issues. Training is available in English, Spanish, and other languages to help agricultural communities.
Do you live or work in a farm community? Here are tips to protect yourself and your family from pesticide exposure.
- Close windows near fields during and after spraying.
- Don’t eat fruit or vegetables directly from the field; always wash them in clean water first.
- Keep children away from pesticides and store household pesticides in a locked cabinet out of their reach.
- After you apply pesticides, wash your clothes separately from the family laundry and wash your body and your hair. Put on clean clothes, not the ones you wore.
- Leave your work shoes or boots outside the house so you don’t bring pesticide residues inside.
- Don’t use agricultural pesticides in your home.
- If pesticides get on your skin, wash right away. Call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 to see if you need medical attention.
- If you feel dizzy or sick while working in a greenhouse or another enclosed area, get out to an open area to breathe fresh air.
More information on agricultural worker safety and training is available.
To farm families and workers, thank you for the work you do.
Emily Selia is an Environmental Health Scientist at the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs. She works primarily on health communication and outreach initiatives, including farmworker health programs.