More than 2 million people work in or near agriculture fields in the U.S. that are treated with pesticides. The Environmental Protection Agency has strict policies about what those workers need to know about pesticide risks, when they can be in those fields and what they should do if they come into contact with the chemicals.
“EPA sets particular criteria of what needs to be included in a training,” said Betsy Buffington, a program specialist in the Pesticide Safety Education Program at Iowa State University.
“So if an instance occurs, they can look back and know that they're doing it correctly.”
Yet even with recent updates to the decades-old Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS), the EPA has little ability to monitor how well the regulation is working, and no way to determine how frequently agricultural pesticides drift onto, or otherwise make contact with, workers.