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Florida farm workers say pesticides gave them cancer

Thursday, September 12, 2013 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: Florida, pesticides, farm workers

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(NaturalNews) A growing number of migrant farm workers, particularly in the state of Florida, are coming down with horrible diseases like cancer that they say are a result of chronic exposure to plant pesticides and herbicides. According to a recent investigative report by Fox News Latino, many conventional produce farms and nurseries in Florida appear to be violating the law by spraying chemicals when workers are present, which is causing many of them to become ill and even die.

The report opens with the story of Marta Cruz, a mother and wife from Mexico who for years picked lemons and tomatoes at a farm in Homestead, Fla. After several years of doing this, Cruz began to suffer excruciating headaches that she at first figured were a consequence of working long days in sweltering heat. But her headaches gradually worsened until one day when Cruz finally collapsed in the field and began to suffer severe convulsions.

After being rushed to the hospital for emergency care, it was determined that Cruz had a cancerous brain tumor, which was later removed. And just one year later, Cruz's one-year-old son was also diagnosed with cancer, a strange occurrence for both individuals, as cancer had never before run in the family. Unfortunately for Cruz's son, the boy's cancer was detected at such a late stage that it had already spread to his stomach, chest and lungs, according to reports.

Unable to come up with any other possible exposures that may have contributed to her and her son's coincidental cancers, Cruz determined that the pesticides sprayed at the farm where she worked were the most likely culprit and proceeded to investigate the matter further. Not surprisingly, Cruz's suspicions were affirmed by the fact that the farm routinely sprayed chemicals at times when workers were present, an illegal practice that significantly increases workers' risk of developing health problems.

"Like in many nurseries, the situation wasn't the best," recalls Cruz about the working conditions in Homestead, as quoted by Fox News Latino. "They would spray in the morning while we were arriving to work instead of spraying in the evenings ... Since the problem of cancer seems to be popping up a lot in the community, I believe it may be associated to [sic] pesticides."

Other nurseries in Florida found to have directly sprayed workers with deadly chemicals

Cruz's experience is not isolated. As it turns out, dozens of other migrant workers and their families have suffered similar fates as a result of careless and indiscriminate spraying by farm owners. Elvira Carvajal, a former farm worker who now works for the Farmworker Association of Florida, says she used to be blasted directly with chemicals while planting orchids and other plants during her 20 years of working on farms.

"I would feel the mist of the pesticides on me and thought it was refreshing from the intense heat," recalls Carvajal, prior to her realizing what she was actually being sprayed with. "They would tell us the pesticides were harmless and wouldn't affect us. They would tell us it was food for the plants. Since the flowers and leaves looked so beautiful and healthy, we really thought pesticides were harmless ... we didn't know any better."

Carvajal now works on behalf of those who have since come after her and who are now suffering similar experiences at the hands of greedy farm owners who engage in negligent chemical spraying practices. Exposing workers to chemicals in the way Carvajal was is a direct violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, and it is still taking place today.

"Research among human populations have had mixed findings, but seem to suggest evidence of a relationship between certain pesticide exposures and certain cancers," admits the Florida Health Department, affirming what Cruz, Carvajal and many others are now saying about this prominent cause of cancer among farm workers.

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