After being exposed to an insecticide called chlorpyrifos only 20 hours prior, 10 Syngenta (a biotech company) field workers were rushed to the hospital after serious adverse health conditions arose. [1]

The Kauai agricultural workers were exposed to the insecticide chlorpyrifos, used on corn, which is currently under consideration for a ban by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). More than 3.5 tons of the pesticide were used in Hawaii in 2014 despite concerns over its environmental effects, as well as adverse health implications. The insecticide was also recently found in what were once considered protected water sources.

Joshua Uyehara, Syngenta Hawaii’s continuous nursery site manager, said in a phone interview that a field supervisor realized that the employees shouldn’t have been in the field within a few minutes after they entered it. Syngenta would not tell anyone what symptoms the 10 workers endured, but they were severe enough that after taking them to Syngenta’s offices and ‘cleaning them up,’ they still needed to go to the hospital.

Six of the workers were cleared to return to work within days, and all of them are now back at work – despite the fact that long-term exposure to the toxic pesticide is likely to cause additional health problems.

Uyehara said the company paid for the medical care and is conducting “a full review of how we can improve the policies and practices that we have in place to be sure that we continue to maintain a safe work environment.”

The EPA was previously sued for not making a decision to ban chlorpyrifos.

As reported by EarthJustice:

“Calling the EPA’s delay in regulating chlorpyrifos “egregious,” the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ordered EPA to respond to the 2007 petition by October 30. The original lawsuit spurring the court deadline was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of Pesticide Action Network (PAN) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).”

Dr. Margaret Reeves, Senior Scientist at PAN, said:

“Given the incredibly strong science on the health harms of this pesticide, it’s absurd that EPA has taken so long to act. A ban will finally ensure that children, workers and families in rural communities are safe from this drift-prone, bad actor pesticide.”

Uyehara said the company doesn’t have any plans to discontinue its use of chlorpyrifos.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s still registered as safe as long as it’s used in accordance with the label,” he said.

Syngenta also will not release the number of workers who entered the field where this toxic pesticide was sprayed. Uyehara said the incident is still under internal investigation. Syngenta Kauai has 108 full-time employees and depending on the time of year, may have up to 200 temporary employees.

This article originally appeared at Natural Society.


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