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EPA Announces Settlement with Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture for Pesticide Misuse and Worker Protection Standard Violations

Release Date: 10/02/2009
Contact Information: Beth Totman (212) 637-3662, totman.elizabeth@epa.gov

(New York, NY) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently settled with the Crop Protection Program of the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture (PRDA). After three years of investigations conducted by EPA, in conjunction with partnering agencies, some of the program’s activities were found to be in violation of the federal pesticide law known as the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The program has agreed to make a number of improvements to meet worker protection requirements and to ensure that during commercial applications at farms throughout Puerto Rico, pesticides are used in a manner that is consistent with labeling requirements.

“EPA wants to stress that worker protection should be the utmost priority when dealing with pesticides,” said Acting Regional Administrator George Pavlou. “By entering into this agreement, we are putting others on notice that EPA is out there enforcing these requirements and that workers must be educated on and protected against potentially harmful pesticides.”

Worker protection provisions of FIFRA are designed to reduce the risk of illness or injury resulting from agricultural field workers’ occupational exposure to pesticides. They regulate pesticide use and require that workers and pesticide handlers be given appropriate training, equipment and information. Workers may be injured from direct spray, drift or residue left by pesticide applications; handlers face additional risks from spills, splashes, inhalation and inadequate protective equipment.

In September 2008, EPA filed a complaint against the Crop Protection Program for being in violation of the worker protection provisions of FIFRA. The program has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $31,000. Additionally, as part of its commercial application practices, it has agreed to use metering devices and use a less toxic, registered pesticide instead of the more toxic pesticide that is currently being used. This will ensure better incorporation of the pesticide into the soil, reducing exposures of workers and handlers to pesticide contamination resulting from spray drift or direct contact.

Moreover, the program will spend a minimum of $106,000 to perform what is called a supplemental environmental project, which will include training of farm workers and pesticide handlers in order to educate them about worker protection standards. The training will also discuss FIFRA requirements to use pesticides in a manner consistent with their labels and the obligations of agricultural employers to assure that handlers have knowledge of pesticide labeling before the pesticides are used. The program is also required to purchase personal protective equipment for farm workers and pesticide handlers, including disposable overalls, half face respirators, rubber boots and gloves. The program has agreed to meet specific deadlines set by the EPA to report on progress that has been made under the settlement agreements.

For more information on pesticide requirements, visit http://www.epa.gov/region02/pesticides/.

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