Foote, Mielke, Chavez & O'Neil, LLC
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What are the pesticide risks farmworkers face?

Many farmers in Illinois and elsewhere will assert that pesticides are necessary to protect crops from the devastation that insect infestations can cause. However, commercial pesticides are made of chemicals, which often poison humans as well as the insects they target. If you work around pesticides, you may face numerous short-term and long-term health risks.

According to Farmworker Justice, the United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates between 10,000 and 20,000 workers suffer adverse effects from being exposed to pesticides on farms. In fact, farmworkers contract more injuries and illnesses related to chemical exposure than those in any other industry in the country. These pesticides are at their most dangerous when you're mixing and applying them, because at this point they are at their highest concentration.

Depending on the nature of your work, you may come in contact with pesticide chemicals from a spill, splash, drift or direct spray. You might breathe in the chemicals or absorb it through your skin by working with the crops or soil where it's been applied, or by wearing inadequate or defective protective gear. Some of the most common short-term effects you face from pesticide exposure include the following:

  • Rashes or eye irritation
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or headaches
  • Breathing problems or unconsciousness
  • Seizures or death

You may also contract serious illnesses due to long-term pesticide exposure, which can include cancer, reproductive health issues and neurological disorders. Long-term exposure to relatively low pesticide levels may contribute toward chronic health conditions. You have the right to file a workers' compensation claim for any illness you contract on the job, including those caused by chemical exposure. This information is meant to be general in nature and is not to be substituted for legal advice.

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