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Recognizing the Risk of Chemical Exposure for Agricultural Workers

The work performed by farm laborers and other agricultural workers feeds the country, but these employees work in risky environments every day. In addition to the risks of workplace injuries caused by heavy machinery and hours spent under a hot sun, agricultural workers have a high risk of short-term and long-term health problems caused by toxic exposure to chemicals. If you or a loved one has sustained work-related injuries or diseases, you can turn to a workers’ compensation attorney in San Jose for legal help.

Methods of Exposure

Virtually all consumers are exposed to some agricultural chemicals, albeit at low levels. But agricultural workers are at a much higher risk of ill health effects because of their direct contact with toxic chemicals like pesticides. Agricultural pesticide exposure occurs when handlers load and mix these chemicals. Workers are exposed when they apply the chemicals to the crops, and when they clean and repair the equipment used for pesticide application. The cultivation and harvest of crops provides more opportunities for pesticide exposure. The risk of toxic exposure increases when agricultural workers are not provided with the proper protective equipment. It’s also important to note that pesticides do not necessarily stay where they are applied. The chemicals drift on the wind and may be inhaled by farmworkers and their families, and the chemicals can leach into the ground and contaminate the water supply. All of these methods of exposure can directly cause work-related injuries.

Risks of Exposure

Pesticide exposure can cause both short-term and long-term health problems in agricultural workers. Acute exposure to high levels of pesticides can cause skin rashes, eye irritation, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. In severe cases, these workplace injuries may include seizures, loss of consciousness, difficulty breathing, and death. The long-term health effects are equally troubling. Long-term problems can arise from chronic exposure to even low levels of agricultural pesticides. Farmworkers are at a heightened risk of neurological disorders, hormonal disorders, and certain cancers. They also are susceptible to developing infertility and other reproductive health problems. Furthermore, pesticide exposure can result in birth defects.

chemical exposure for agriculture workers