Under newly proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reforms, teenage workers could be allowed to handle dangerous pesticides or other toxic chemicals. It is reported that EPA officials may eliminate the age requirements, which state that only employees over 18 years old at farms or other work environments could handle toxic chemicals. In 2015, former President Obama instituted a tightening of the safety standards for the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard and the Certification of Pesticide Applicators Rule regarding youth workers and toxic chemical administration by establishing an age requirement. The age requirement has not even gone into effect yet, but new reforms could phase it out before it even begins.
Many pesticides used on farms are considered “restricted-use pesticides,” and are unavailable to the public due to the hazardous nature of the chemicals. Environmental and worker safety groups, who lobbied for the age requirement, warn that more individuals could become sick if they work with the toxic chemicals. Furthermore, teenage workers may not have the maturity to safely handle pesticides when working with them. The age requirement covers minors outside of the farmers’ immediate family members, namely their children, who may be allowed to work on their family farms according to their parents’ discretion. Teenage workers are still growing, and if they work with toxic pesticides or other chemicals, may be at a higher risk for developing cancer, altering brain development, and impacting fertility.