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Pesticide Labels Should Be in Spanish as Well as English, Groups Say

June 28, 2011 

 Pesticide Labels Should Be in Spanish as Well as English,
Groups Say

Spanish is Native Language for More Than 80 Percent of Agricultural Workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should ensure that pesticide warning labels are printed in Spanish as well as English, since Spanish is the native language for more than 80 percent of agricultural workers, Public Citizen and 56 other organizations told the agency today.

The groups, which include Farmworker Justice and the Migrant Clinicians Network, filed comments calling for the agency to issue a bilingual labeling standard for pesticides.

“Many agricultural workers remain unaware of the precautions they need to take to protect themselves from pesticides,” said Justin Feldman, worker health and safety advocate with Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Our proposal is a simple measure that would have important public health benefits.”

Bilingual labeling would help prevent serious health problems for workers. Hundreds of farm workers suffer from acute pesticide poisoning each year, and a growing body of research links long-term exposure to the chemicals with neurological disorders, reproductive problems and cancer.

Pesticide manufacturers have demonstrated that they can easily produce bilingual labels. Many pesticides sold in retail stores throughout the United States already display warnings in both English and Spanish. Pesticides sold for commercial use in Puerto Rico also provide information in Spanish. But most pesticides sold for commercial use in the U.S. include only a single sentence in Spanish, which asks workers to find someone who can help translate the label.
“It is unrealistic for EPA to expect that workers can have the labels translated,” Feldman added. “Even when a bilingual person is willing to help, translating technical language is challenging if you’re not a trained interpreter.”

Labor standards for agriculture have long lagged behind those of other industries. Bilingual labeling is a critical step toward establishing meaningful farm worker protections, Feldman said.