(New York, NY – Aug. 19, 2008) Through recent settlements with four Puerto Rico farms, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is sending a message to farm owners that protecting their workers must be their first priority. Owners of Finca Roman Farm, Anthuriums de Puerto Rico and the Javier Quiles Farm, all in Adjuntas, as well as the owner of Finca Los Tres Picachos in Jayuya, failed to display specific pesticide application information for agricultural workers and pesticide handlers. Several of the farm owners also failed to provide workers with training, protective equipment or ways to wash off residual pesticides before leaving the work sites. Additionally, some of the farm owners failed to provide medical care information to workers and pesticide handlers and did not follow the pesticide label instructions for proper pesticide use and disposal.
“Dealing with pesticides can be potentially harmful if workers don’t have the proper equipment and aren’t informed of the best ways to handle and dispose of them,” said Alan J. Steinberg, Regional Administrator. “EPA wants to stress that worker protection should be the utmost priority for farm owners and these recent settlements underscore this point.”
Worker protection provisions of the federal pesticide law, known as the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), are designed to reduce the risk of illness or injury resulting from agricultural field workers’ occupational exposure to pesticides. They regulate pesticide use and require that workers and pesticide handlers be given appropriate training, equipment and information. Workers may be injured from direct spray, drift or residue left by pesticides applications; handlers face additional risks from spills, splashes, inhalation and inadequate protective equipment.
In October 2007, EPA filed a complaint for each of the four Puerto Rico farms for being in violation of the worker protection provisions of FIFRA. Each farm has agreed to pay a civil penalty, and to display information on pesticide application, information on pesticide safety and emergency medical care, as well as to provide decontamination supplies for workers and handlers, personal protective equipment, and pesticide safety training for workers and handlers. The farms have agreed to meet specific deadlines set by the EPA to report on progress that has been made under the settlement agreements.