EPA sues Kauai seed firm over exposure to pesticide
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is suing a Kauai seed company over the protection of agricultural workers at its crop research farm in connection with a medicalemergency in January when 10 people were treated at a hospital.
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is suing a Kauai seed company over the protection of agricultural workers at its crop research farm in connection with a medical emergency in January when 10 people were treated at a hospital.
The EPA claims Syngenta Seeds LLC, doing business as Syngenta Hawaii LLC, on Jan. 20 failed to notify workers to avoid cornfields in Kekaha that had been sprayed with a restricted-use pesticide, chlorpyrifos.
“The company then allowed or directed workers to enter the treated field before the required waiting period had passed and without proper personal protective equipment. After the workers’ exposure, Syngenta failed to provide adequate decontamination supplies onsite and failed to provide prompt transportation for emergency medical treatment,” said the EPA in a news release.
Chlorpyrifos can cause nausea, dizziness and headache in small amounts. Ten workers were taken to a hospital for treatment.
Syngenta spokesman Paul Minehart said in a statement that the company was disappointed the EPA filed a complaint, and that Syngenta had been working with the agency to resolve the issues. “Syngenta has taken responsibility in this matter. No workers were injured in the incident,” Minehart said.
Minehart said the company’s position is that the EPA is not accurately describing what happened and is “overreaching its authority with this enforcement, lacking precedent and disregarding its own policies and regulations.”
According to the company, approximately 19 workers entered a cornfield about 20 hours after the field was sprayed. The wait time to re-enter the field is 24 hours.
“In short a supervisor realized the error and had the workers leave the field,” Minehart said. “All of the workers washed their hands and took showers after exiting the area.” Ten of the 19 were taken to a hospital to be examined.
Most of the workers returned to work the next day, and three stayed at the hospital overnight for observation. Minehart said all 10 workers returned to work the following Monday.
Syngenta reported the incident to the state Department of Agriculture, and an inspector who was there at the time looked into the matter. Minehart said, “To Syngenta’s knowledge, no worker who entered the field actually came in contact with the product Lorsban Advanced (chlorpyrifos), a water-based formulation used to control a variety of pests on multiple corps, or had any symptoms resulting from exposure during or after entering the field that day.”
“Agricultural worker safety is a top priority for Syngenta and safe use training has for many years been an integral part of the way the company does business worldwide,” he said.