Monday, March 15, 2004

Pesticide Poisoning of Immigrant Worker

The pesticide poisoning of an immigrant worker in Florida has drawn the attention of state lawmakers, concerned that many migrant workers who toil in Florida's fields are unaware of the possible dangers such work holds.
Mario Chavez's hands tremble as he reaches for his dinner plate. He has ''tubes in his kidneys'' because they can't function on their own. His memory is fuzzy.

Until November 2002, Chavez unloaded plants from a trailer at Costa Nursery Farms in the Redland -- plants that were destined to adorn living rooms in homes he could never afford.

Chavez says pesticides from those plants entered his pores, making him vomit every night for a week, turning his face red and swollen. He had a brain hemorrhage and spent a month in a coma.

Doctors have not concluded that the pesticides caused the brain hemorrhage, but they have not ruled it out.

The incident, however, sparked an investigation into the nursery's practices by the state last year. Six violations were found, and the nursery was also fined.
Without any protection, Chavez had been unloading plants that had just been sprayed with a pesticide that was supposed to have a 24-hour waiting period.

Several bills currently moving through the Legislature would require farm owners to tell their workers what pesticides they are using and what the toxic effects could be. Similar bills died in the Legislature last year.

The nursery where Chavez worked was fined a whopping $7,000. They are, nevertheless, denying any wrongdoing and are fighting the citation.