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Dozens of farm workers exposed to pesticides in South Valley. 3 sent to the hospital

Several dozen farm workers were exposed to pesticides at a vineyard outside Dinuba, CA, on Tuesday, June 18, 2019. Three workers were taken to the hospital.
Several dozen farm workers were exposed to pesticides at a vineyard outside Dinuba, CA, on Tuesday, June 18, 2019. Three workers were taken to the hospital.

Nearly 60 farm workers were exposed to chemicals Tuesday morning as they worked on a vineyard west of Dinuba.

Three workers were taken to Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia as firefighters and officials from the health department and agricultural commission investigated the extent of the exposure.

Tulare County firefighters were dispatched at 10:45 a.m. to a vineyard on Avenue 408 west of Road 56 after farm workers reported falling ill as they worked.

Firefighters who arrived found nearly 60 farm workers that had been working at the vineyard who were possibly exposed. Some reported symptoms of nausea and vomiting.

According to Tulare County fire Cpt. Joe Rosa, the workers were exposed to pesticides that had blown over from across the streeat, where a stone fruit orchard was being sprayed.

Marianna Gentert, Tulare County’s deputy ag commissioner for pesticide use enforcement, said farm workers who had been interviewed during the investigation reported hearing an air blast sprayer in the area and then smelling a pesticide.

The county office was aware of spraying that would be taking place in that area, Gentert said. An investigator from the commission would be in charge of following up with the growers about who and what was being sprayed.

An official from the Tulare County Department of Environmental Health said a miticide called Onager Optek and an insecticide called Reaper Clearform were the pesticides that were being sprayed. Both are agricultural products that are harmful if swallowed or inhaled.

Fire Cpt. Rosa told The Bee the chemicals hexythiazox and abamectin were involved in the exposure.

Gentert said not all workers showed symptoms, but all were required to be processed for decontamination. As of 3 p.m., firefighters were still on scene along with a crew from the Tulare County Environmental Health department. Clothing samples would be taken in for inspection.

Rosa said the workers were being taken to a “collection point,” where they could be picked up by family or friends once cleared.

Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado is a journalist at The Fresno Bee. He covers the people and places experiencing economic and social inequity for The California Divide media collaboration. He grew up in the southern San Joaquin Valley and has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Fresno State.
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