Farmworkers at Risk

The Growing Dangers of Pesticides and Heat

Rafter Ferguson, Kristina Dahl, Marcia DeLonge

Published Dec 9, 2019


Pesticide exposure and heat stress conditions combine to present significant risks to the health and safety of the nation's farmworkers.

The estimated 2.4 million farmworkers in the United States are vital to US food production. They are also exploited, undervalued, and vulnerable to compounding climate change threats.

Our study examined the combined risks of heat stress and pesticides, with a focus on California, Florida, and Washington—states that lead the nation in pesticide use, number of farmworkers, and production of labor-intensive fruits, nuts, and vegetables. We found that farmworkers in these states already experience substantial threats, which are likely escalating.

Policies to protect farmworkers' well-being from the dangerous consequences of extreme heat and pesticides are urgently needed. The report offers a list of specific recommendations for Congress, the USDA, and other federal agencies.


Ferguson, Rafter, Kristina Dahl, and Marcia DeLonge. 2019. Farmworkers at Risk: The Growing Dangers of Pesticides and Heat. Cambridge, MA: Union of Concerned Scientists.