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At last: A revised Worker Protection Standard

MCNMigrant Clinicians Network is thrilled to announce today that the Environmental Protection Agency has at long last released its revised Worker Protection Standard, fortifying the rules that protect agricultural workers in fields across the US. We at MCN, along with dozens of our partners in farmworker and environmental health, applaud the newly amended WPS, which includes important provisions to protect farmworkers and pesticide applicators from pesticide exposure. Read our joint press release on the revised WPS here.  

Migrant Clinicians Network has advocated for over 20 years for stronger worker protections.  “MCN commends the EPA for the much-needed and long-overdue revision,” notes Amy K. Liebman, MPA, MA, Director of Environmental and Occupational Health at MCN. “We look forward to working with the EPA and health justice advocates to assure a speedy implementation and strong enforcement.” 

“These new rules are major improvements to the WPS that will go a long way in preventing farmworker exposure to pesticides,” said Ed Zuroweste, MD, Chief Medical Officer at MCN. “This is a major step in the right direction, but we must be diligent in making sure that the implementation of the new rules are realized nationwide.”

The revised WPS includes many key provisions including: a minimum age of 18 for pesticide handlers; annual worker safety training, increased from every five years; enhanced worker safety trainings which include new topics like paraoccupational exposure; new rules on decontamination and personal protective equipment; and, an increase in access to information that workers receive about the pesticides that have been applied at their workplace. The EPA’s webpage on revisions highlights additional changes as well.

While we are pleased with this important step forward, MCN is disappointed that the EPA chose not to include requirements on medical monitoring. We strongly contend that medical monitoring of pesticide applicators dealing with organophosphates or N-methyl carbamates is an essential preventative measure that reduces exposure. Medical monitoring programs for workers who mix, handle and apply these types of pesticides are successfully implemented in California and Washington and are a requirement for US Department of Agriculture employees. 

Now, we shift our focus toward the critical implementation and enforcement of these new rules through partnerships with the EPA and other organizations focused on health justice and agricultural worker rights. We look forward to working closely with the EPA to assure that agricultural workers are protected on the job.

PRESS CONTACT: Please contact Amy Liebman, MPA, MA, Director of Environmental and Occupational Health for Migrant Clinicians Network at (410) 599-5493 or aliebman@migrantclinician.org.

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