Thursday, May 30, 2013

Youth taking action: We’ve done our part, now do yours EPA!

by Lynne Walter, Associate Director

On May 21, 2013, my co-worker Anna and I had the opportunity to speak with all of the 9th graders at Carolina Friends School in Durham, NC, about migrant farmworkers, their exposures to pesticides, and youth migrant farmworkers working in the fields … and as someone who went to a Quaker college, it was really fantastic interacting with these young Friends school students!

After we all watched and talked about the documentary "Overworked and UnderSpray: Young Farm Workers' Pesticide Stories", the students wrote some really incredible letters to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ask the EPA to release the Worker Protection Standard (WPS), the federal rules that are designed to protect workers from pesticides on the job (FYI—the WPS dictates what employers need to tell workers about the pesticides they’re using, when safety equipment should be provided, and how to handle exposures when they happen).

The release of the new WPS has been substantially delayed, and the Carolina Friends School students wrote letters asking the EPA to end the WPS release delay, why this was important to them, and why they felt farmworkers should be safe from pesticide exposures.

One of my favorite parts of one of the letters was: “I’ve done my part, Mr. Jones [writing the letter]. Now the EPA must do theirs."

These forty-two 9th graders and their three teachers were getting ready for a service learning trip to the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry in Newton Grove, NC, the following week. We talked about what Toxic Free NC does and the risks farmworkers face from pesticides, particularly the risks and challenges young migrant farmworkers in North Carolina experience.

The Carolina Friends School students had very thoughtful questions and comments about the challenges farmworkers, especially young farmworkers, face regarding pesticide exposure in the fields, and wrote amazing letters to the EPA. I really enjoyed seeing another generation get even more involved in farmworker advocacy!

No comments:

Post a Comment