The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently fined Vector Tobacco Inc. $65,040 for allegedly misusing pesticides and failing to comply with federal pesticide worker safety laws. Vector Tobacco, a subsidiary of Vector Tobacco Group of Durham, NC, allegedly misused six pesticides during their application at its agricultural research facility in Kekaha, Kauai, in 2005 and 2006. And on 93 occasions, Vector Tobacco failed to follow label directions intended to protect workers from exposure to pesticides, in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.
“Employers of agricultural workers must ensure their employees are provided with information and protections that minimize the risk of potential exposure to pesticides,” said Katherine Taylor, Associate Director of the EPA’s Communities and Ecosystems Division for the Pacific Southwest region. “Failure to provide these necessary safeguards is considered a serious violation.”
The six pesticides were Terramaster 4EC, Nemacur 3, Lorsban 4E, Prowl 3.3EC, Devrinol 50DF, and Ridomil Gold EC.
During the pesticide applications in 2005 and 2006, Vector Tobacco failed to provide its workers and pesticide handlers with required protective equipment, pesticide information, decontamination supplies, safety training, and notification that pesticides had been applied. These safeguards are required by the federal Worker Protection Standard, which aims to reduce the risk of pesticide injuries to agricultural workers.
Vector Tobacco also failed to prevent workers from entering areas where pesticides had recently been applied, and subsequently denied them prompt transportation to a medical facility after these workers reported averse health effects due to the pesticide exposure.
The Hawaii Department of Agriculture discovered the violations during inspections performed in March and June of 2006. Worker complaints triggered the initial investigation. Since the inspections, Vector Tobacco has shut down the Kekaha facility.
Before selling or distributing any pesticide in the United States, companies must register the pesticide with the EPA and include on the pesticide labeling directions for use and other information necessary to protect human health and the environment. Federal law requires that agricultural employers comply with these labeling directions during pesticide applications to protect their workers from occupational exposure.
For more information on pesticide enforcement and the Worker Protection Standard, please visit the EPA’s Web sites: