(NaturalNews) Agricultural workers, utility crew employees and residents in Washington have been exposed to pesticide applications via numerous "drift events," reported the Yakima Herald-Republic.
Roughly 60 people in the region have fallen ill, many reporting difficulty breathing, skin rashes, nausea, vomiting and headaches. At least eight have sought emergency medical treatment.
Washington health department spokeswoman Kelly Stowe said the illnesses could be connected to 15 different incidents of spraying in commercial orchards. The majority of cases have occurred in the eastern part of the state, where the most fruit is grown.
Despite strict regulations by state and federal environmental and agricultural agencies, "drift events" still occur. A "drift event" is when the chemical spray drifts away from its intended surface due to wind or improper application.
"We're concerned with this spike in potential drift exposures (and) protecting people from unnecessary exposure to these chemicals is a responsibility that needs to be taken very seriously," said Washington State Health Officer Kathy Lofy, as quoted by Reuters.
According to the state Department of Health, the number of reported drift events over the last two months is higher than what the agency typically sees all year.
"To see this many pesticide drift cases this early in the season is a concern," said state Department of Agriculture spokesman Hector Castro.
Just one day after the Yakima Herald-Republic released their report on the 60 who fell ill due to pesticide exposure, they released another report unveiling a medical mystery plaguing the same area.
Central and eastern Washington has also seen a significant spike in anencephaly in unborn babies. Anencephaly is a "nightmarish neural tube defect in which the fetus does not develop a forebrain, and the rest of the brain is not covered by skin or bone." Most children with this condition either die in the womb or survive for only a few minutes upon birth.
The state has seen 23 cases of anencephaly in unborn and newborn babies in Benton, Yakima and Franklin counties since 2009, which is four times the national average.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found a direct correlation between the occurrence of anencephaly and pesticide exposure. The results showed a nearly fivefold increase in the risk of the condition for mothers exposed to pesticides while working in agriculture during the acute-risk period.
Fathers exposed to pesticides while working in agriculture had twice the risk of having an anencephalic child.
William Wilson, a life-long resident of Marshalltown, Iowa, a state known for agriculture, primarily corn, told Natural News in an interview that he's long been concerned about drift events and the consequences of being directly sprayed by chemicals.
"Sometimes, I'll be out in the yard working, and the sprayers will come out of nowhere, and I got caught out there," said Wilson. "There's no where for me to go."
Mr. Wilson's proposed solution is to require farmers to issue a public warning prior to spraying. "That way people would have a chance to get inside," said Wilson.
Farmers often use air-blast sprayers, which include a combination of air and liquid to deliver pesticides to the surface of plants. The reported cases currently under investigation mainly include instances involving air-blast sprayers.
According to Virginia Tech's Pesticide Program, air-blast sprayers have several limitations, including "drift hazards," the fact that "concentrated pesticides may increase chance of dosage errors" and being "not suitable for windy conditions" and "hard to confine."
Those are some pretty serious complications. Why isn't the public aware that the most commonly used type of pesticide application is also the most dangerous to people?
Just recently, the California Department of Public Health did a first-ever survey studying the location of schools in regard to pesticide use. Alarmingly, officials discovered that at least 2,500 schools are located within just one-quarter mile of fields heavily spraying pesticides, meaning thousands of children are likely being exposed.
Pesticide exposure can create many health complications, particularly in children because they have a harder time processing chemicals than adults. Children exposed to pesticides have a higher chance for developing attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a medical condition that causes impulsive behavior, difficulty paying attention and hyperactivity.
Agricultural chemicals have also been linked to many types of cancer including leukemia, non-Hodgkins lymphoma and brain, bone, breast, ovarian, prostate, testicular and liver cancers.