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EPA Applauds Victory in Case Against Puerto Rico Company for Pesticide Worker Safety Violations - Judge assesses 2nd highest penalty for worker safety

Release Date: 02/01/2007
Contact Information: Dave Ryan, (202) 564-4355 / ryan.dave@epa.gov En español: Lina Younes, (202) 564-4355 / younes.lina@epa.gov

(Washington, D.C. - Feb. 1, 2007) EPA today applauds a legal victory against Martex Farms, a Puerto Rico company, for violating the worker protection provisions of U.S. pesticide laws.

The company has been ordered to pay a total penalty of $92,620, which is the second highest penalty ever assessed under EPA's worker protection standard, which is authorized by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

"This is an important legal win for EPA and a major step forward for environmental enforcement," said Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA's enforcement and compliance program. "We will continue enforcing EPA's regulations to protect agricultural workers from unnecessary exposure to pesticides."

On Jan. 19, EPA's Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) office found Martex liable for 170 alleged violations of EPA's worker protection standards, and ruled that Martex failed to display specific pesticide application information for its agricultural workers and pesticide handlers, failed to provide them with decontamination materials, and failed to provide handlers with personal protective equipment.

The ALJ decision underscores EPA's position that failing to provide agricultural workers and pesticide handlers with specific pesticide application information on the same application constitutes separate, independent violations. In addition, this ruling reaffirms the requirement that every handler applying pesticides must be provided with personal protection equipment.

In January 2005, EPA filed a complaint against Martex for improperly using pesticides and endangering worker safety.

Martex Farms grows, processes, packs and ships tropical fruits and plants. The family-owned business was established in 1989, and employs hundreds of people at its numerous facilities in Puerto Rico.

The EPA's worker protection standards are designed to reduce the risk of injury or illness to agricultural field workers resulting from exposure to pesticides. Agricultural workers may be injured from direct spray, drift or residue left by pesticide applications. Pesticide handlers face additional risks from spills, splashes, inhalation, and inadequate protective equipment.

FIFRA provides the basis for regulation, sale, distribution and use of pesticides in the United States. FIFRA authorizes EPA to review and register pesticides for specified uses. EPA also has the authority to suspend or cancel the registration of a pesticide if subsequent information shows that continued use would pose unreasonable risks.

More information about the Martex Administrative Law Decision
: epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/mm/martexfarms.html

More information about EPA's worker protection standard: epa.gov/pesticides/health/worker.htm

Help protect our Nation's land, air and water by reporting violations: epa.gov/tips