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NEW AGRICULTURAL WORKER PROTECTIONS APPLAUDED

 NEW AGRICULTURAL WORKER PROTECTIONS APPLAUDED
 SACRAMENTO, Calif., Aug. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- New national standards


designed to protect agricultural workers from pesticide exposure are a major step toward making the nation's farms safer places to work, James W. Wells, director of Cal/EPA's Department of Pesticide Regulation, said Friday.
 "We applaud the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) for taking steps to reduce pesticide risks to agricultural workers and pesticide handlers," said Wells, commenting on new worker protection standards announced Thursday by the federal agency.
 Wells added the new national standards should not have a major impact in California, where a comprehensive pesticide worker protection program has been in place for some time.
 "We will have to make a few changes to comply with elements in the nationwide standards," said Wells. "However, most of our standards are stricter, and we intend to keep them that way."
 Wells said that "farmers nationwide will now be required to do many things our growers have had to do for many years, like providing safety training, warnings about pesticide treatments, washing facilities and protective equipment.
 "In fact, the new regulations will probably benefit California farmers," said Wells. "Our farmers have long maintained they are at a competitive disadvantage, because farmers in other states did not have to comply with similar worker protection standards. Although our program is stricter, this will help level the playing field. At the same time, while farmers in other states will have capital costs associated with implementing the new standards, California's farmers won't."
 USEPA has been developing the new regulations for eight years, and worked closely with California pesticide regulatory officials in doing so, Wells said.
 California's program is broader than that being implemented by USEPA, said Wells. USEPA is exempting several categories of workers, including those using pesticides on livestock and rangeland, in post- harvest operations and in government-sponsored pest control. "Our regulatory program covers all those workers," said Wells, "as well as employees using pesticides in industrial and institutional settings, such as disinfectants in hospitals and cleaning agents used by janitorial employees."
 In addition, since 1977, California has required that workers mixing and loading highly toxic pesticides use closed systems to do so. This protects them from splashes and spills, and has greatly reduced injuries and illnesses. This is not part of the federal program.
 California has also implemented hazard communication regulations which require employers to provide pesticide health and safety information to workers and handlers about individual pesticides used. As an adjunct to its new worker protection standards, USEPA proposed a hazard communication program Thursday, but it has not been implemented.
 Most California re-entry intervals are longer than those being established by USEPA, Wells said. However, the federal agency is mandating minimum re-entry intervals of at least 12 hours for all pesticides, something California does not require now, and which will require changes in state regulations. Re-entry intervals are the period of time that must elapse between application of a pesticide and re-entry into a treated field by workers.
 California's re-entry intervals, however, differ from those being established by USEPA, which calls them 'restricted entry intervals' because early re-entry is allowed, provided the workers have received training, and are wearing protective equipment as specified on product labels to be issued next year. For the most part, California does not allow entry before expiration of the interval.
 "Farmers will notice a few changes when the USEPA regulations are fully implemented in two years," said Wells. "Application records will now have to be posted in a central location, rather than be available on request, as California now requires. USEPA's rules will also expand decontamination procedures. We now require that clean-up supplies be provided to pesticide handlers using highly and moderately toxic pesticides. Under the new regulations, the supplies must be provided for handlers of all pesticides. There may also be some changes in the way fields must be posted after pesticide treatment, although we need to fully analyze the regulations before we can determine that."
 -0- 8/14/92
 /CONTACT: Veda Federighi of Cal/EPA, 916-654-1117/ CO: California Environmental Protection Agency; U.S. Environmental
 Protection Agency ST: California IN: SU: EXE


SC-JH -- SF006 -- 0223 08/14/92 17:29 EDT
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Date:Aug 14, 1992
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