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Why agricultural workers have one of the deadliest jobs on the planet


(NaturalNews) On July 19, 60 farm workers in rural Illinois had to be treated for pesticide exposure after they went to work in a field too soon after it had been sprayed with pesticides from the air. Several of the sickened workers were teenagers.

Such accidents are relatively common. In 2013, 80 field workers were actually sprayed directly with fungicide by a crop dusting plane.

These cases highlight the constant danger that farm workers live under: As their bodies are slowly poisoned by long-term exposure to toxic chemicals, they also run the risk of being dramatically sickened or even killed by a single incident of high-dose exposure.

The most poisoned profession

Farm workers suffer from more chemical-related illness and injury than workers in any other profession. Toxic pesticides are so widely used in agriculture that the exposure routes are nearly endless.

People working directly with pesticides – mixing, loading or applying them – might be splashed in the process or exposed due to leaking equipment. They may be exposed due to missing or defective protective gear, accidentally dosed while applying the chemicals, or even caught as the pesticides drift in the wind. Field workers like those recently poisoned can be exposed when they work in a field that was recently sprayed, and can also be hit by direct spraying or indirect drift.

Even farm workers' families are at risk. Children regularly play outdoors, either in fields that have been directly sprayed or in neighboring fields, parks or schools exposed to pesticide drift. And workers bring home toxic residue on their clothing and skin.

The risks of pesticides are both short- and long-term. Short-term exposure in high enough doses can cause eye irritation, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches and rash. In higher doses, acute exposure can cause breathing difficulty, seizures, unconsciousness or death. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, between 10,000 and 20,000 farm workers suffer from on-the-job acute pesticide poisoning every year.

But these numbers pale in comparison with the nearly 100 percent of farm workers suffering from chronic pesticide exposure. That's because even in minuscule concentrations, long-term pesticide exposure has been linked with health problems including cancer, hormonal and reproductive problems, birth defects and neurological diseases.

Roundup poisoning widespread

The scale of the problem can be illustrated by looking at the example of just a single chemical that nearly all farm workers are exposed to: Monsanto's Roundup, the most used herbicide in the United States.

A 2004 study in Environmental Health Perspectives tested the urine of farm workers and their families on the day they applied herbicides containing glyphosate (Roundup's active ingredient), as well as the day before and for three days after. They found that on the day of application, 60 percent of farm workers had detectable glyphosate levels in their urine, as did 4 percent of their spouses and 12 percent of their children. Maximum urinary levels ranged from 3 parts per billion (3 ppb) to 233 ppb.

All the exposure levels were below that considered safe by the EPA. Yet studies have linked Roundup to endocrine disruption and cancer at concentrations to the order of one part per trillion – a thousand times weaker than those found in the study.

Glyphosate has also been linked to organ toxicity, and is classified by the World Health Organization as a probable carcinogen.

Troublingly, studies have also found that some of Roundup's "inactive" ingredients are in fact biologically active, and may be more toxic than glyphosate itself. One of these ingredients, polyethoxylated tallowamine (POEA), has been found to poison human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells, leading researchers to warn that Roundup may cause birth defects and miscarriage.

Be part of the solution, not part of the problem! Grow your own produce in the low-water, no-electricity Food Rising Mini-Farm Grow Box 2.0, a hydroponics system developed by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger.

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