Dozens of farmworkers in Bakersfield, Calif., were recently exposed to extremely toxic pesticides, Mother Jones reports. It is believed that the poisoning was caused by chlorpyrifos, a chemical found in the pesticide that was being used on crops in the area.
As the New York Times reported, chlorpyrifos chemicals have alarmed public health officials for years, and until recently were on the Environmental Protection Agency’s radar for banning. However, since President Trump appointed EPA head Scott Pruitt, the chemical was given the go-ahead. Mother Jones pointed out that the chemical in question was manufactured by Dow AgroSciences, whose parent company, Dow Chemical, gave $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee.
While more than fifty workers were exposed, only twelve workers reported symptoms of chemical exposure, including vomiting and nausea. Another twelve were checked but exhibited no symptoms. The remaining farmworkers dispersed before receiving medical attention, leaving their condition unknown.
Michelle Corson, a public health official for Kern County, released a statement, Kern Golden Empire reports, saying, “Anybody that was exposed, that was here today, we encourage them to seek medical attention immediately. Don’t wait. Particularly if you’re suffering from any symptoms. Whether it’s nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seek medical attention immediately.”
There are growing concerns in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains due to illegal pesticides that are being used for illegal marijuana-growing sites in the area. Law enforcement officials on Tuesday announced major operations are underway targeting these sites. Officials say that Mexican drug traffickers are the culprits behind the marijuana grows and have already discovered close to 25,000 marijuana plants cultivated illegally within California’s national forests in the last month.
“These are federal lands, and they are being systematically destroyed through clear-cutting, stream diversion, chemicals, and pesticides,” U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said at a news conference.
Law enforcement is most concerned about the pesticide, carbofuran, that is being used on these plants. The pesticide is toxic to wildlife and humans and can cause permanent reproductive damage.
While the large marijuana grow is enough to cause concern for law enforcement, the banned pesticide, Carbofuran, being used is making matters worse. According to Quartz, the substance was very common for farmers as it was once sprayed on American corn, cotton, potatoes, sunflowers, and other crops. The pesticide in question was pulled off the legal U.S. market more than a decade ago due to its deadly harm. It’s also been known to cause permanent damage to human nervous and reproductive systems and is toxic to wildlife and waterways.
The pesticide also happened to kill more birds in the U.S. than any other pesticide ever known. It would also be banned in Europe, Canada, and Brazil, shortly after.
Carbofuran has been a continuing problem in California despite its ban. The pesticide has been a known favorite for illegal pot operators, nine out of every 10 illegal pot farms raided in California were found to be using it last year, according to the Associated Press.
Another issue that has risen is the water usage that these illegal cannabis farms in California are wasting. The LA Times notes that on average one illegal farm uses a minimum of 5.4 million gallons of water annually to cultivate 6,000 plants.
“Water is the most important issue in California, and the amount being used to grow an illegal product in the national forest is mind-boggling It’s a vitally important issue,” Scott said.
Investigators say there’s been a spike in illegal marijuana grows in California that is being operated by Mexican drug traffickers.
The news conference came less than two days after two men from Michoacan, Mexico, Lester Eduardo Cardenas Flores, and Luis Reyes Madrigal, were caught operating an illegal marijuana-growing site in the Sierra Mountains. Both men were formally charged Tuesday in Fresno federal court with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute large quantities of marijuana.
Scott says illegal immigrants from Mexico have been a common theme when it comes to finding these marijuana operations. Both Madrigal and Flores were illegal immigrants and were linked to other Mexican marijuana traffickers. The penalty for both of their charges could be anywhere from 10 years to life in prison.
“We’ve prosecuted hundreds of person, without exception..they’re all here illegally and all undocumented from Mexico,” Scott said.”We want to find the people funding these operations.”
There is hope that these latest arrests send a signal to traffickers and legislative change follows as well.
Marijuana-growing sites being connected to Mexican drug groups have been a growing issue for years. But Scott says with the recent spike of chemical use being found it only adds to the urgency of shutting these operations down. Back in July, agents and officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife closed in on another illegal grow operation deep within the Stanislaus National Forest. The raid turned up with over 2,500 marijuana plants and one loaded handgun.
While this has been an issue for years, officials says with the legalization of recreational marijuana in California back in 2016. Environmentalists and scientists agree that legalization of the cultivation of marijuana could be the best solution to prevent this from happening in the future. But for now, this is an issue that law enforcement doesn’t see stopping anytime soon.
“I want to be perfectly clear, none of what we are talking about is legal under anyone’s marijuana laws,” Scott said. “This isn’t about the marijuana, it’s about the damage that’s being done. What is happening here is illegal under anybody’s law. Everything that we are talking about is as equally illegal under California law as it under federal law.”
When the United States sent most of its young men off to fight in World War II, it created a shortage in the nation’s work force. As Time points out, one the areas most affected by the lack of labor was the farming industry, which needed as many hands as it could to help when harvest season approached. To balance out the shortage, the U.S. started the Bracero program, which legally allowed Mexican campesinos – farm workers – into the country. While the Bracero program provided many Mexican farm workers with better wages than they likely would have earned in Mexico, discrimination and exploitation were still part of the daily life.
In 1957, photographer Sid Avery, known for his work with celebrities, was given an assignment to capture life for these farm workers. The photos were published in the “Saturday Evening Post,” but afterwards the photos remained unpublished in any form and were basically lost for the last 60 years, Time reports.
Thanks to MPTV and Time, actual prints of these long forgotten images are now seeing the light of day, and they are providing a rarely seen glimpse into the world of the Bracero program. Time has several of these images available to check out, which we highly recommend doing.