Extension works to lower farmworkers’ pesticide exposure

Recognizing that farming is among the nation’s most hazardous occupations, North Carolina Cooperative Extension offers educational programs to help farmers, farmworkers and their families lower their risks of injury, illness and death. Our latest tool in this effort: a kit of easy-to-use materials to teach pesticide safety to Spanish-speaking agricultural workers with limited formal educations.

Extension tested the kit with workers and trainers to make sure it was simple yet effective. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also reviewed the materials.

The centerpieces of the new kit are tabletop flipcharts. Lesson plans appear on the side that faces the trainer, while the side that faces the audience features colorful photographs illustrating the trainer’s message.

The kit also comes with one-page illustrated sheets — available in Spanish and English — related to some of North Carolina’s most important crops. The sheets list common pesticides used at various stages of crop growth, indicate each pesticide’s toxicity level and spell out how long areas treated by each pesticide should be off-limits. They also have realistic drawings illustrating the symptoms a worker might experience because of unsafe exposure and phone numbers for the worker to call in case of problems.

Dr. Greg Cope, Julia Storm and Catherine LeProvost with the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology developed the kit. They plan to launch a related website in the summer of 2010 for tobacco, sweetpotato and tomato crops, and they have materials related to eight other crops in the works.

-Dee Shore

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