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Report Shows Lake Apopka's Health Impact On Farm Workers

May 26, 2006

Chemicals contaminating Lake Apopka are causing all kinds of problems for the animals that live in the lake. Now, a report shows that contamination may have affected people who worked near the lake.

The report was released by the Farm Workers' Association Of Florida. It details what they call an unacceptably high number of health problems among Apopka's former farm workers.

They worked at vegetable farms around the notoriously polluted Lake Apopka, which the state bought out in 1998 to try to clean the site up. But the workers said, as the lake cleanup has continued, they've been forgotten.

One by one, they told their stories, stories of pain and suffering, of illness, of awful working conditions on the vegetable farms that used to ring Lake Apopka. It's the same lake that rose to prominence as one of Florida's most polluted thanks to runoff from pesticides used at the farms.

Environmentalists have documented the effects the pollution had on wildlife, but never on the people, mostly poor, who worked to till the soil.

Friday, the Farm Workers' Association Of Florida released a survey of 148 former workers exposed to the pesticides who, organizers said, have a greater incidence of everything from skin problems to memory loss, but limited access to the healthcare they need.

The workers said they had tremendous exposure to pesticides. One even said she found herself working in the muck when a plane dropped a load of chemicals right on top of her.

Organizers said it wasn’t an official study and it's mostly anecdotal. But they want the county or the state to take more interest in the workers' plight and research the issue more thoroughly.

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