Humans are highly social beings with strong emotional connections with our friends and loved ones. We thrive and grow when key people in our lives impart the strength, love, and hope that are essential to our well-being. This is true even in the time of the Coronavirus – perhaps even more so! – and it’s especially true for children, who absolutely depend on a safe and healthful environment in order to grow up as strong, healthy individuals who contribute positively to society.
Today, March 31st, is the birthday celebration of Cesar Chavez, which wraps up the final day of National Farmworker Awareness Week. Chavez was a true pioneer for farmworkers’ labor rights, so much so that his words and actions continue to have an impact in the present day.
In 1984, he gave this speech at the Commonwealth Club in California:
Child labor is still common in many farm areas. As much as 30 percent of Northern California’s garlic harvesters are under-aged children. Kids as young as six years old have voted in states, conducted union elections, since they qualified as workers. Some 800,000 under-aged children work with their families harvesting crops across America. Babies born to migrant workers suffer 25 percent higher infant mortality rates than the rest of the population. Malnutrition among migrant workers’ children is ten times higher than the national rate.
Though these words are from over 35 years ago, the situation on the ground hasn’t changed for farmworkers or their children all that much.
Within the farmworker community, children are among the most vulnerable. These youth, whether in the field or not, are at significant risk of exposure to numerous toxic chemicals, including atrazine, acifluorfen, dicamba, and alachlor. Exposure to these caustic substances can be found in residue on the ground, in water run-off, in the air, and on work gear.
The prevalence of these substances in the environment suggests that these children are routinely exposed to agents with harmful properties. The adverse conditions and circumstances for farmworker children can lead to long-term cognitive and physical impairments.
When anyone among us is down and out, it reverberates throughout our social-emotional circuit. (Just think for a moment about the current pandemic, and its reverberations all throughout the global community!) When we are aware of our circumstances, we can be vigilant. When we are vigilant, we can curb the effects of environmental exposure and prevent illness and injury among farmworker children.
Click here to find out more about AFOP Health & Safety, which provides occupational health and safety education to the farmworker community, including children and adults.