Fresno County officials investigate possible pesticide exposure

Fresno County agriculture officials are investigating a pesticide spraying accident near Kerman that affected about 12 workers.

The incident happened Feb. 22 when two crews of 38 Gerawan Farming workers were pruning peach trees in an orchard near Central and Shasta avenues. In a neighboring field, a worker employed by a different grower was spraying several chemicals in an almond orchard, and the spray may have drifted onto the workers who were pruning, said Les Wright, Fresno County agricultural commissioner. Wright said about a dozen workers complained of a headache or eye irritation, but none required hospitalization. Wright also said medical providers came to the orchard to check the workers.

The almonds were being sprayed with a combination of chemicals, including Regalia, a plant extract used by organic growers to treat fungal diseases. Also being used was liquid nitrogen, sulfur and zinc.

On Tuesday the United Farm Workers protested outside the county agriculture commissioner’s office, saying that the workers were asked to return to work, despite having come down with pesticide exposure symptoms. The union further contended that the workers were not given the chance to change their clothes, nor were they given medical examinations for poisoning.

Wright said the incident remains under investigation.

Robert Rodriguez: 559-441-6327, @FresnoBeeBob