The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is suing a Kauai seed company over the
protection of agricultural workers at its crop research farm in connection with a
medical emergency in January when 10 people were treated at a hospital.
The EPA claims Syngenta Seeds LLC, doing business as Syngenta Hawaii LLC, on Jan. 20
failed to notify workers to avoid cornelds in Kekaha that had been sprayed with a
restricted-use pesticide, chlorpyrifos.
“The company then allowed or directed workers to enter the treated eld before the
required waiting period had passed and without proper personal protective
equipment. After the workers’ exposure, Syngenta failed to provide adequate
decontamination supplies onsite and failed to provide prompt transportation for
emergency medical treatment,” said the EPA in a news release.
Chlorpyrifos can cause nausea, dizziness and headache in small amounts. Ten workers
were taken to a hospital for treatment.
Syngenta spokesman Paul Minehart said in a statement that the company was
disappointed the EPA led a complaint, and that Syngenta had been working with the
agency to resolve the issues. “Syngenta has taken responsibility in this matter. No
workers were injured in the incident,” Minehart said.
Minehart said the company’s position is that the EPA is not accurately describing what
happened and is “overreaching its authority with this enforcement, lacking precedent
and disregarding its own policies and regulations.”
According to the company, approximately 19 workers entered a corneld about 20
hours after the eld was sprayed. The wait time to re-enter the eld is 24 hours.
“In short a supervisor realized the error and had the workers leave the eld,” Minehart
said. “All of the workers washed their hands and took showers after exiting the area.”
Ten of the 19 were taken to a hospital to be examined.
Most of the workers returned to work the next day, and three stayed at the hospital
overnight for observation. Minehart said all 10 workers returned to work the following
Syngenta reported the incident to the state Department of Agriculture, and an
inspector who was there at the time looked into the matter. Minehart said, “To
Syngenta’s knowledge, no worker who entered the eld actually came in contact with
the product Lorsban Advanced (chlorpyrifos), a water-based formulation used to
control a variety of pests on multiple corps, or had any symptoms resulting from
exposure during or after entering the eld that day.”
“Agricultural worker safety is a top priority for Syngenta and safe use training has for
many years been an integral part of the way the company does business worldwide,”
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