Seven in 10 child laborers around the world work in agriculture. These children face many dangers from razor-sharp farm implements like machetes, knives, and scissors, from heavy equipment, and from the widespread use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

127 Groups Ask EPA Not to Reverse Ban on Pesticide Application by Children

Dear Administrator Pruitt:

The undersigned organizations write to oppose any changes by the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) to the requirements in the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (“WPS”) and Certification of Pesticide Applicators rule (CPA).

Over 15 years ago, an EPA report stated that “pesticide poisoning in the United States remains under-recognized and under-treated…despite the ubiquity of pesticides in our homes, workplaces, and communities, and despite the considerable potential for pesticide-related illnesses and injury.” Farmworkers have one of the highest rates of chemical exposures among U.S. workers and they suffer acute pesticide poisoning every year through occupational exposures and pesticide drift. Studies have shown that agricultural workers suffer serious short- and long-term health effects from exposure to pesticides. The WPS and CPA rules provide vital protections from exposure to toxic pesticides for hired farmworkers, pesticide applicators, their families and the general public in communities across the United States. In revising these rules, the EPA recognized that the weight of evidence suggests that the new requirements, “will result in long-term health benefits to agricultural workers, pesticide handlers,” and “to certified and noncertified applicators, as well as to the public and the environment.”

After more than a decade of stakeholder input and analysis, the EPA revised the WPS and CPA rule to prevent injury and illness to the children, women and men who work around pesticides in agriculture, or who come into contact with pesticides in other settings. EPA found that the new safeguards are necessary to address the known dangers associated with pesticide use. The WPS applies to hired workers and pesticide handlers who labor in farms, fields, nurseries, greenhouses and forests. The CPA rule governs the training and certification requirements of workers who apply Restricted Use Pesticides (“RUPs”) in a variety of settings, including homes, schools, hospitals, as well as agricultural and industrial establishments. RUPs are some of the most toxic and dangerous pesticides on the market.

 

We are concerned that the EPA may weaken critical safeguards meant to protect agricultural workers, the public, and the environment. Among the many important provisions in the rules, the Agency has stated its intent to reconsider the minimum age protections that prohibit children from applying pesticides, the right of farmworkers to access pesticide application information through a designated representative, and protections for bystanders through “application exclusion zones,” which require that an applicator suspend pesticide application if “an unprotected/non-trained person” enters the area around the application equipment.

Undermining these important protections cannot be justified. We urge you to preserve the existing protections and to move forward with full implementation and enforcement.

Respectfully,

127 child, faith, agricultural, health, labor, human rights, consumer and environmental groups, including the Child Labor Coalition have signed the letter.

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A Toxic Decision — How Protecting Child Farmworkers May Be Pushed Aside by the EPA

By Len Morris

America’s fields, orchards and farms are toxic places for children; and things could get much worse thanks to recent actions by the Trump administration Environmental Protection Agency led by Administrator Scott Pruitt, an ideologue willing to put business interests ahead of the health and welfare of migrant families and U.S. citizen children that the EPA. is responsible for protecting.

Over 2 million farm workers work in American agriculture, an estimated half a million of these are children. Their work puts them in daily direct contact with hazardous pesticides that can sicken them, lower their IQ, make them chronically ill or even lead to death. 

Two regulations to protect children from pesticide poisoning, illness and death, The Agriculture Worker Protection Standard of 2015 and The Certification of Pesticide Applicators Rule currently of 2017 make it illegal for children under 18 to handle these chemicals, especially those considered most toxic and lethal. These are the protections Pruitt has proposed revising/eliminating.

For children on farms, pesticide exposure is particularly hazardous. The American Academy of Pediatrics has said there is a clear link between childhood exposure to pesticides and pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive functions and behavioral problems. Young children are especially vulnerable as they metabolize poisons faster than adults. 

An estimated 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides are applied to crops each year in the U.S.  The Environmental Protection Agency has reported 20,000 cases of pesticide poisoning, a low estimate since reporting is spare and migrant families are often afraid to seek medical attention. … Read the rest

CLC News Release: Legislation to Protect Child Farmworkers in the US is Re-Introduced

CHILD LABOR COALITION PRESS RELEASE
Child Labor Coalition applauds the introduction of two congressional bills to reduce dangerous child labor in U.S. agriculture

For immediate release: June 13, 2017
Contact: Reid Maki, (202) 207-2820, reidm@nclnet.org

Washington, DC—The Child Labor Coalition (CLC) and its 35 members applaud the re-introduction late yesterday of two congressional bills that would significantly reduce child labor in U.S. agriculture and largely equalize child labor laws for wage-earning children on farms with current rules for non-farm work.

In the U.S., many teens who work in tobacco fields wear plastic garbage bags to try to avoid nicotine poisoning. [Photo courtesy Human Rights Watch]

In the U.S., many teens who work in tobacco fields wear plastic garbage bags to try to avoid nicotine poisoning. [Photo courtesy Human Rights Watch]

In the House of Representatives, Rep. Roybal-Allard (D-CA) re-introduced the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE), which would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act, removing the exemptions that prevent the nation’s child labor laws from applying to children who work for wages on farms.

“A 12-year-old is not allowed to work in our air-conditioned office,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League and a co-chair of the CLC. “Yet, that same child is allowed to work unlimited hours, seven days a week on a farm, performing back-breaking work.”

CARE would also raise the age at which children laboring on farms can perform hazardous work from 16 to 18, which is the norm for all non-farm work. “We lose far too many children to work accidents on farms,” said CLC Coordinator Reid Maki. “This change is long overdue.”

“Child farmworkers work at far younger ages, for longer hours, and under more hazardous conditions than children are allowed to work in any other industry. It’s time to end this double standard in U.S. law and ensure they have the same protections as other working youth,” said CLC-member Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.

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International Labour Organizaton (ILO) Experts Comment on U.S. Government Efforts to Implement Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

[Adopted in 2016 and published in 2017]
 
Articles 4(1), 5 and 7(1) of the Convention. Determination of types of hazardous work, monitoring mechanisms and penalties. Hazardous work in agriculture from 16 years of age. The Committee previously noted that section 213 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) permits children aged 16 years and above to undertake, in the agricultural sector, occupations declared to be hazardous or detrimental to their health or well-being by the Secretary of Labor. The Government, referring to Paragraph 4 of the Worst Forms of Child Labour Recommendation, 1999 (No. 190), stated that Congress considered it as safe and appropriate for children from the age of 16 years to perform work in the agricultural sector. However, the Committee noted the allegation of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) that a significant number of children under 18 years were employed in agriculture under dangerous conditions, including long hours and exposure to pesticides, with risk of serious injury. The Committee also took note of the observations of the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and the United States Council for International Business (USCIB) that section 213 of the FLSA, which was the product of extensive consultation with the social partners, is in compliance with the text of the Convention and Paragraph 4 of Recommendation No. 190.
 
The Committee took note that the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) continued to focus on improving the safety of children working in agriculture and protecting the greatest number of agricultural workers. In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) increased its focus on agriculture by creating the Office of Maritime and Agriculture (OMA) in 2012, which is responsible for the planning, development and publication of safety and health regulations covering workers in the agricultural industry, as well as guidance documents on specific topics, such as ladder safety in orchards and tractor safety.
 

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