The Government Accountability Office said in 1993 that a "lack of data" about the health effects of pesticides "could lead to a 'significant underestimation of both the frequency and the severity of pesticide illnesses,'" Greene reports. Today, the EPA can "still only guess" about the number of pesticide-related illnesses, mostly because farm workers tend to be illegal immigrants who don't want to speak up. States, which have been given EPA-authority to enforce pesticide regulation, don't receive many complaints, according to federal records. Some state officials think the system is broken, but EPA"red tape" is keeping reforms from happening, Greene reports.
Workers fear the price for speaking up may be too great. In 2010, farm workers were fired on the spot and sent back to Mexico after complaining multiple times about pesticides sprayed near them in a tomato field. A farm worker in Florida became ill in 2009, and discovered the pesticide endosulfan, which has since been banned by the EPA, was sprayed less than 24 hours after she started working. When she went to the doctor, she said she wasn't asked about the pesticide. The crux of the issue, Green reports, is this: "Workers have little voice when it comes to pesticides." (Read more)