Jim Jones, acting assistant administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention at the Environmental Protection Agency, visited with farmers, labor organizations, Cooperative Extension agents and department employees from the Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division last week to learn more about issues facing North Carolina’s farm workers. Friday, Cooperative Extension agents and department staff gave presentations on the challenges and successes facing pesticide workers in the state.
As part of the session, George Elderbaum of EI Group and Robin Tutor with the N.C. Agro Medicine Institute walked Jones through a mock respirator fit test, which measures the strength of the worker’s respirator seal. During the test, a farm worker simulates movements they would perform in the field as a health specialist monitors the seal’s integrity.
The fit test is part of a series of changes outlined by the EPA in its Reregistration Eligibility Decisions (REDs) on soil fumigants. In 1988, the EPA began reviewing the health and ecological effects of pesticides first registered before 1984 to make sure they continued to hold up to current scientific standards. Since then, those reviews have been released in REDs. In 2009, the EPA released REDs for soil fumigants.
The first phase of those REDs was implemented in 2010. In addition to fit test, the document also addresses issues with tarp perforation and removal, re-entry restrictions, Good Agricultural Practices, fumigant management plans and posting of treated areas. The second phase of the REDs is slated to begin later this year.
In North Carolina, pesticides affected by the REDs are used in several key crops, including peanuts, strawberries, tobacco, tomatoes and forestry seedlings. About 2,200 N.C. farms use at least one of the regulated fumigants. You can find out more about the new requirements, upcoming changes and the affect REDs have on local farms and farmers on the department’s website.