SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed a complaint against pesticide giant Syngenta on Wednesday, over an incident in which 10 farm workers were hospitalized after entering a company test field that had been sprayed with a restricted-use pesticide.
Earlier this year, 19 farm workers entered a Syngenta test field located on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The field had recently been sprayed with a restricted-use pesticide, and no one told the workers.
Ten of them were taken to local hospitals for treatment of exposure to the pesticide Lorsban Advanced.
An inspector with the Hawaii Department of Agriculture happened to be at the facility when the incident occurred, prompting an immediate investigation. The department subsequently referred the case to the EPA for enforcement.
In its complaint, the EPA says Syngenta failed to notify the workers that the field had been sprayed and to avoid it, and allowed them to enter the field without proper protective gear. After exposure, the company then failed to provide adequate decontamination supplies on-site and waited too long to take the workers to the hospital.
The Germany-based company faces numerous counts of violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. It has the right to request a hearing on the matter and has 60 days to contest the EPA’s proposed $4.8 million fine.
Lorsban Advanced and its active ingredient chlorpyrifos cause a runny nose, tears, sweating, headache, nausea and dizziness in small amounts. More serious exposure can cause twitching, muscle tremors, loss of consciousness and paralysis.