Hired Farmworkers:

Health and Well-Being at Risk

HRD-92-46: Published: Feb 14, 1992. Publicly Released: Feb 25, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the extent to which federal laws, regulations, and programs protect the health and well-being of hired farmworkers.

GAO found that: (1) federal laws and regulations do not ensure that hired farmworkers are given sufficient information about pesticide hazards; (2) according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates, each year, hired farmworkers suffer up to 300,000 acute illnesses and injuries from exposure to pesticides; (3) EPA standards for protecting hired farmworkers exposed to pesticides do not require that they be informed on the specific chemicals they are exposed to or the potential health effects of those pesticides; (4) federal regulations on field sanitation do not protect hired farmworkers on small farms, and the Department of Labor's 1990 national survey of migrant farmworkers showed that 31 percent worked in fields without drinking water, handwashing facilities, or toilets; (5) federal labor law and child labor regulations allow children to work in agriculture at a younger age than in other industries; (6) children may be more susceptible than adults to the harmful effects of pesticides, and between 1979 and 1983, approximately 23,800 children and adolescents were injured on farms, 300 fatally; (7) most migrant farmworkers do not receive medical services from Medicaid or the Migrant Health Program because they are undocumented aliens or do not qualify for cash assistance programs; and (8) hired farmworkers are at greater risk than other workers to receive fewer Social Security benefits that they should, because their employers do not report all of their earnings to the Social Security Administration.

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