The EPA has proposed a rule making the requirements for agricultural pesticides applications more restrictive, requiring more worker training, limiting field entry and increasing the age workers can enter fields at certain times. As usual, family members are not covered by the rule. The basis for this rule seems rather farfetched.Reduction of exposure to chemicals on the surface is a good idea. However, when the government adds significant more stringent rules such as respirator fit testing and who can enter treated fields and when, a good basis for those rules should be there. I started wading through the 346 page proposed rule and stopped when the justification was based on reduction in non-Hodgkins lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, lung cancer, asthma and bronchitis. The EPA believes if the incidence of lung cancer could be reduced by 0.08%, then the program would pay for itself.
I looked up a study of lung cancer from pesticides. It was based more on applicators, not farm workers. The association with lung cancer appeared weak and the authors admitted that finding cause was difficult, but went ahead anyway. This study was based largely on surveys. Some years ago, I took one of these surveys. It asked me questions about frequency and names of pesticides I was exposed to during my days on the family farm. Let’s say that my detailed memories faded a bit in the half-century between being on the farm and the survey. Basically, it was a junk survey.
As a chemist and having been responsible for industrial hygiene with some not-so-fun chemicals, I wouldn’t advise unnecessary contact with chemicals. However, the EPA is really stretching it’s justification on this one.