Farm Beat: Farmworker videos raise awareness of pesticides

jholland@modbee.comJuly 19, 2013 


SUN-STAR PHOTO BY MARCI STENBERG Shielded from the hot sun by brightly colored umbrellas, farmworkers thin out sweet potato plants, later to be planted in the same field or another field. They work from 6am to 3pm.

MARCI STENBERG — Merced Sun-Star

— A few farmworkers have found a side job — acting in cell phone videos that educate fellow workers about pesticide safety.

The California Poison Control System this week launched a campaign, the Pesticide Safety Project, that aims to keep workers from being exposed to harmful amounts of the chemicals.

Spraying is regulated by counties and the state, with rules such as training and protective suits for applicators, limits on windy days, and waiting periods before entering treated fields.

The Spanish-language videos, starring real workers, describe what to do if something goes wrong. They note the symptoms of pesticide poisoning and advise workers that they can report it without fear of being fired or other retaliation.

One video says that before going home, they should change out of work clothes that might bear even small traces of pesticides.

"Working from dawn to dusk, all I want to do is get home as soon as possible, be with my family, hug my kids," an actor says in the English subtitles. "But no matter how impatient I am to leave, I take precautions to avoid getting the pesticides from the fields into my home."

Another video shows how workers' families can keep household pests out of their homes, which reduces the need to spray.

Research found that mobile devices would be more effective than printed material at getting the word out, said Iana Simeonov, director of program development at the Poison Control System, in a news release.

"For many farmworkers, mobile phones are their sole gateway to the Internet," she said.

The videos also are intended for community health care advocates known as "promotores."

The Poison Control System long has provided around-the-clock help by phone to people dealing with various kinds of poisoning. It launched the farmworker project in cooperation with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety at the University of California at Davis.

To see the videos, go to To report a pesticide exposure, call (877) 378-5463.

Have an idea for the Farm Beat? Contact John Holland at

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