Farm workers exposed to chemicals for second time in two weeks. This time in Fresno County

Several dozen farm workers were exposed to pesticides on Thursday, June 27, 2019, at a field west of Fresno. Three were hospitalized.
Several dozen farm workers were exposed to pesticides on Thursday, June 27, 2019, at a field west of Fresno. Three were hospitalized.

Several dozen farm workers were exposed to pesticides Thursday in Fresno County, the second time such an incident has occurred in the region this month.

Firefighters responded around 9 a.m. to a field at Central and Goldenrod avenues, south of Kerman, for reports of a hazmat situation where about 75 workers had been exposed to a pesticide.

The Fresno Fire Department dispatched its hazmat team to the area. Close to noon, three people had been taken to Community Regional Medical Center and 27 were being evaluated by medical personnel, said Fresno fire spokesman Robert Castillo.

A decontamination zone was set up to clean up the workers. They were being washed with soap and water, Castillo told The Bee by phone. Castillo said the pesticide was a combination of three chemicals. He provided the names as: Zylo insecticide, Nealta miticide and spray oil.

The Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner as well as the Fresno County Department of Health had crews in the area investigating the incident.

Deputy Agricultural Commissioner Mario Reeves said said typically around this time of the year, insecticide and miticides are sprayed on farms.

It’s unclear if there was notice given before the spraying took place at the farm, Reeves said. Certain chemicals with restrictions require a 24-hour notice before spraying, but chemicals with less restrictions do not carry that requirement.

A spokesperson with Gerawan Farming company sent a statement to The Bee stating the chemicals had reached workers at their orchard and emergency crews were called.

“Gerawan had not been given prior notice of the spraying,” according to the company statement.

It’s the second time in two weeks that farm workers were exposed to pesticides while at work. On June 18, nearly 60 farm workers were exposed to chemicals at a vineyard near Dinuba in Tulare County.

Three people there were also rushed to the hospital. Officials said the cause of the exposure was due to drift, which carried the chemicals from one field to the other.

Reeves said it’s possible that was also the case in Fresno County. He said inspectors were reviewing the incident as well as speaking with the farm owner, and would later be interviewing the workers about the exposure.

In addition to the farm exposures, on June 13 one person was killed and nine others were hospitalized after a hazmat spill in Los Banos. Officials could not immediately say what the chemical was or how the spill occurred. A Merced County sheriff’s deputy said it appeared to be an agricultural spray.

Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado is a general assignment reporter at The Fresno Bee. He grew up in Porterville and has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Fresno State. He is a former student editor at the Fresno State and Fresno City College newspapers. His hobbies include reading, sleeping, running and taking care of his dog.