Farm workers may face the risk of illness from exposures to pesticides being applied at neighboring farm sites. This report highlights the risks of off-target pesticide drift, the toxicity of some recently marketed pesticides, and a gap in worker-notification requirements.
A primary way of reducing these risks would be to improve communication between farm managers planning pesticide applications and their neighbors. In April of 2014 an incident occurred in Washington State where 20 farm workers fell ill after exposure to off-target drift of a pesticide mixture. The pesticide application occurred at a pear orchard bordering a cherry orchard. All 20 cherry-orchard workers began feeling ill within minutes of exposure to the pesticides drifting from the pear orchard;, six developed moderately severe illness.
The pesticides were relatively new and had not previously been reported to cause human illness. The two workers who applied the pesticides were wearing air-purifying respirators and chemical-resistant headgear and reported no symptoms. Although there are no requirements to do so, this event could have been prevented through better communication between managers of the pear and cherry orchards.