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Farm Workers Blame Ailments On Pesticide Use

May 26, 2006 | A farm worker association in Apopka said they believe many of the people who used to toil on vegetable farms are suffering from years of pesticide exposure.

The wildlife problems that occurred immediately after the Lake Apopka cleanup started are well-documented, but the association believes the legacy of years of pesticide use is still around, WESH 2 News reported.

The association released survey results on Friday.

The report is 53 pages long and for the most part lists farm workers telling the same story, complaining of different health ailments, such as arthritis and difficulty breathing.
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"I'm sick right now with diabetes, heart trouble, arthritis, anything. And my skin -- I got into some chemicals, from the nursery to the muck land," former farm worker Betty Dubose said.

"It is pesticides from the muck that has something to do with their ailments," another former farm worker said.

The association admits that the link between pesticides and some of the health problems is more belief than actual science, but they're hoping that the survey will lead to the scientific report they've been clamoring for for years.

"These are people who are citizens of this area. They have lived here for years. They have fed this area, and they have fed the country. And, yet, we do not have access to appropriate health care for them," Sister Gail Grimes of the Apopka Farmworker Association said.

“We are not scientists. We tried to get scientific studies on the health of the farm workers here, and it didn't get funded," Jeanne Economos of the association said.

Now that they have the survey, the association is hoping they can get that next step and get some more scientific study.

In addition to being concerned about the the former farm workers, there’s also concern that a lot of people are buying property now around Lake Apopka.

The association wants to make sure enough study is being done not just to get the water clearer in Lake Apopka, but to get rid of some of the pesticide residue left over from years of vegetable farming.

Water managers have cleaned up tainted soil from the bird die-off in the late 1990s, and the work is continuing. They have invested money to clean up areas that they have identified as hot spots to remove some of that pesticide threat.

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