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Pesticide Protections Needed For ID Farmworkers, Advocates Say

Idaho farmworkers exposed to pesticides don't know what effects these chemicals will have on their health, and advocates are pushing for more safeguards for these laborers.

Christina Stucker-Gassi, healthy food and farms program coordinator at the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, said it's only been about a generation of ubiquitous use of pesticides on farms, so the long-term health impacts on humans still are being explored.

"Chemical-synthesized pesticides in a lab, like we see today used in huge amounts, just didn't exist," Stucker-Gassi explained. "So it's like a great big experiment, and the data is still out."

Long-term exposure to pesticides has have been linked to risks of various forms of cancer and decreased cognitive ability in children.

The Idaho state Department of Agriculture said it investigates any alleged misuse of pesticides or violations of the federal Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, according to the Times-News in Twin Falls.

Marielena Vega, spokesperson for the Vision 2C Resource Council in Canyon County said the organization began last year after farmworkers were aerially sprayed with pesticides near Parma.

She's been working on farms since she was 15 years old and finds it troubling the effect of the chemicals on women is largely unknown.

"We don't know how it's going to affect our bodies later on," Vega worried. "If it does, what negative consequences is it going to have in the future with our children, with our health, if it's going to affect, you know, like how long we live?"

The Agricultural Worker Protection Standard from the Environmental Protection Agency aims to help two million farmworkers nationwide.

The rules require employers to implement annual training on handling pesticides. But Stucker-Gassi said Idaho and other states have low compliance rates with the new regulations.

"With the laws already federally on the books, there's a lot of work that we can do to improve the implementation of them that would actually protect workers, increase transparency and allow them to take better steps to protect themselves and their families," Stucker-Gassi contended.