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Possible pesticide exposure sickens Salinas farmworkers

Greta Mart/KCBX
Farmworkers tend a field near Salinas.

An investigation continues this week into a suspected June 22 insecticide poisoning of 18 farmworkers in Salinas.

The Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office is conducting the investigation. The county’s assistant AG commissioner, Bob Roach, said Monday afternoon that all but one of the sickened workers returned to the job the following day.

According to Roach, the farmworkers started their day at 4:30 a.m. at a celery field owned by Tanimura and Antles in south Salinas. Within an hour, the workers became ill with headaches and nausea, and were taken to the local hospital, where a decontamination unit treated them.

“There is no obvious cause yet, no apparent source of exposure,” Roach said. He added the grower, known as T&A, had applied a dangerous pesticide called methomyl to two nearby fields at 10 and 10:30 p.m. the night before.

Roach said it may take months for the investigation to be completed and forwarded to the state department of pesticide regulation, but it is a “priority for the office.” Part of the inquiry consists of testing clothing from the workers to determine possible pesticide exposure levels.

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