A California jury is deciding the case of whether farm owners are to blame for birth defects of a baby born to a field worker who says she was exposed to pesticides while pregnant.
Eulalia Lopez-Gomez says that spraying chemicals in the fields while she was picking fruit at Westside Strawberry farms in Oxnard in 2007 was common. The Ventura County Star reported that Lopez-Gomez testified that “she could feel the mist from the chemicals.” She said that her eyes and throat burned and she got headaches as she picked strawberries. Lawyers told jurors that exposing pregnant women to a chemical called Captan causes birth defects. Lopez-Gomez’s son, Erik, now nine years old, was born with a malformation of the lower part of the face.
Erik has trouble eating and drinking, and suffers from emotional and learning difficulties.
Controversy over Studies Linking Pesticides to Birth Defects
Expert witnesses testified that managers knew the dangers of the chemicals used on the farm. They told jurors that several studies over the past 40 years had proved the link between birth defects and pesticides. Additionally, experts testified that the farm’s owners failed to give safety training to workers in the field. The Environmental Protection Agency publishes a guide to safely apply pesticides. Lawyers for Lopez-Gomez say that supervisors never gave her any of the information. They say that farmer owners and managers broke the law by not using the guid.
The farm company’s owners say that the studies never proved the link between birth defects and pesticides used on that farm. They say they have followed state and federal rules.
Lawyers say farmworkers in Central Florida may face the same dangers if they are not properly trained.