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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

CARE Act Reintroduced–Would Equalize Protections for Children Who Work in U.S. Agriculture

Child Labor Coalition Press Release

More progress needed to reduce child labor; Urgent action required on Uzbekistan, Domestic Workers Convention, and U.S. farmworker children

For release: June 10, 2011

Contact: NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323, media@nclnet.org

Washington, DC—As World Day Against Child Labor on June 12 approaches, the Child Labor Coalition (CLC) is alerting the public that more than 200 million children still toil around the world, often in dangerous jobs that threaten their health, safety, and education.

Here in the United States, the CLC is applauding the anticipated re-introduction of the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE), which Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) plans to sponsor once again next week. The legislation [H.R. 2234] would close loopholes that permit the children of migrant and seasonal farmworkers to work for wages when they are only 12 and 13 years old, often in harsh conditions—10- to 12-hour days of bending over and performing repetitive tasks in 90- to 100-degree heat.

“It’s time to level the playing field by closing these loopholes, which go all the way back to 1938, when the Fair Labor Standards Act was introduced,” said CLC Co-Chair Sally Greenberg, the Executive Director of the National Consumers League, a consumer advocacy organization that has worked to eliminate abusive child labor since its founding in 1899. “We must offer these children the same protections that all other American kids enjoy.”

“Working migrant children pay a heavy price educationally for their labor,” said Antonia Cortese, a Co-Chair of the CLC  and the Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.5 million public service employees. “Many farmworker children leave school before the school year ends and return after it begins. The constant travel and work wears many children out. They struggle to catch up academically, but for many it’s a losing battle—and more than half never graduate high school.”

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