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There’s a major problem in the agricultural fields of Florida. Yet, it goes practically unnoticed because those affected are migrant farmworkers who often don’t speak much English. They pick our strawberries and tomatoes. They provide back breaking labor for sub standard wages. They often live in ramshackle trailers we wouldn’t consider appropriate for farm animals. Most tragically, their children are born with severe birth defects because of the pesticides used in these fields. One of the major culprits is the herbicide metribuzin. The EPA report on metribuzin specifically warns that “field workers” are at risk if they inhale the chemical. The warning calls for special protective equipment to be used when it is applied and also requires that workers wait 12 hours before entering a field where the chemical has been employed. Between 1999 and 2003, Ag-Mart, a produce company based in Plant City, was cited three times by state inspectors for violations of pesticide regulations in its Florida fields. Those violations involved the precise EPA concerns attached to a chemical such as metribuzin: failure to keep workers out of fields for a sufficient time after chemicals have been used, failure to provide proper protective equipment and failure to keep proper records of pesticide and herbicide use.

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