En 2005 la muerte de una trabajadora agrícola ubicada al este de Stockton, California puso en evidencia los sufrimientos de los jornaleros durante el verano. María Isabel Vásquez Jiménez, originaria de Oaxaca, México de 17 años y con dos meses de embarazo trabajaba en un viñedo bajo una temperatura superior a los 95 grados Fahrenheit. Su muerte y la de otros tres jornaleros en años previos, llevaron a que California adoptara la ley sombra, agua y descanso para evitar más muertes debido a la insolación.
Teresa Andrews, educadora comunitaria del Centro Occidental para la salud y la seguridad en la agricultura de la Universidad de California Davis, recuerda cuando se realizaban los estudios científicos para respaldar la ley. “El estudio este fue específicamente sobre como el calor afecta a las personas. Hubo un grupo de expertos que estuvieron visitando varios lugares agrícolas desde el norte de California hasta la frontera con Mexicali y estuvieron viendo las diferentes tareas que hacían los trabajadores durante el día, este estudio se hizo durante tres años en la época del verano”, dijo Andrews.
Al mismo tiempo, los expertos recababan datos sobre la temperatura en el ambiente, la humedad, y otros factores del medio ambiente.
“Ellos (los expertos) observaban durante todo el día de trabajo las actividades que hacían los jornaleros, es decir, si estaban pizcando, si estaban sembrando, todo lo que estuvieran haciendo los trabajadores”, agregó Andrews. “Antes de empezar la jornada, se les media (a los jornaleros) su nivel de glucosa, de hidratación y al final del día se tomaban las mismas muestras, para ver cómo estaba respondiendo su cuerpo al calor”, señalo Andrews.
“Cuando el estudio iba a empezar se registró la muerte de una joven trabajadora del campo, María Isabel Vásquez-Jiménez y esto llevo a que CalOsha iniciara la campaña de sombra, agua y descanso”. Andrews agrega que el centro fue parte importante de esta campaña desde su inicio hace 17 años.
Desde la promulgación de la ley en el 2005, cada año durante el verano, CalOsha y el Centro Occidental para la Salud y la Seguridad en la Agricultura retoman la campaña y ofrecen talleres en español e inglés por todo el estado para concientizar a los trabajadores sobre el derecho que tienen de recibir sombra, agua y descanso de así necesitarlo.
Pero a pesar de estos esfuerzos por los menos en los últimos doce años han fallecido veinticuatro jornaleros a consecuencia de la insolación.
“A veces cuando hablo directamente con ellos durante las capacitaciones, me dicen que no toman agua por que tienen miedo de que van a ir mucho al baño, de que el patrón le va a llamar la atención porque no están trabajando tan rápido”, declara Andrews.
El tener agua para su consumo es el derecho de los jornaleros, Andrews asegura que beber agua en pequeñas cantidades es crucial para el bienestar del trabajador agrícola. Ella utiliza conceptos sencillos en sus talleres para concientizar a los trabajadores del campo sobre la importancia de estar siempre hidratado.
"Nosotros no tenemos una lucecita que nos advierta sobre la falta de agua, pero tenemos la sed, que es la señal para saber que estamos cerca de sufrir un golpe de calor o una insolación”, señala Andrews.
La educadora comunitaria, enfatiza sobre la diferencia entre el golpe de calor y la insolación.
El golpe de calor lo causa la alta temperatura corporal que alcanza el organismo (por diversos factores), mientras que en la insolación la causa es la alta temperatura que alcanza el organismo por la exposición al sol.
Los signos de alerta para el golpe de calor son los siguientes:
- Fiebre superior a 104 grados Fahrenheit.
- Cambios en el estado mental o comportamiento, como confusión, agitación y balbuceo.
- Piel caliente y seca o sudoración excesiva.
- Náuseas y vómitos.
- Piel enrojecida.
- Pulso acelerado.
- Respiración rápida.
Los síntomas de la insolación son:
- Cara congestionada.
- Dolor de cabeza.
- Sensación de agotamiento.
- Sensación de sed.
- Calambres musculares intermitentes en extremidades y abdomen.
- En la insolación sudoración abundante, en el golpe de calor la sudoración cesa y la piel está seca, caliente y enrojecida.
- Mareos, náuseas y vómitos.
- Pulso fuerte e irregular.
- Respiración acelerada y ruidosa.
- Temperatura corporal.
Andrews señala que si bien es importante saber reconocer los síntomas de estas dos condiciones y actuar rápido. Lo mejor es prevenir y mantenerse hidratados bebiendo siempre agua en sorbitos desde el momento en que se empieza a sentir sed. La ley en California que protege a los trabajadores agrícolas señala que debe otorgarse a los jornaleros no menos de cinco minutos de descanso bajo un lugar con sombra y agua.En esos cinco minutos no se debe incluir el tiempo que toma llegar del lugar dónde estaba el jornalero al lugar donde está ubicada el área de sombra. La ley señala también que lo más recomendable es que el trabajador agrícola no regrese a laborar hasta que se sienta mejor.
De acuerdo con información recabada por CalOsha, cada año fallecen entre 3 y 4 jornaleros debido a insolación.
La labor de concientización que el Centro Occidental para la salud y la seguridad en la agricultura, CalOsha y UC ANR realizan es sumamente importante ya que la amenaza de sufrir un golpe de calor o insolación sigue presente debido al cambio climático en donde las temperaturas son más altas cada verano.
“Es nada más que la gente se acostumbre a oír la información con base científica y que tiene el objetivo de ayudarlos a llevar una mejor calidad de vida”, concluye Andrews.
El estudio, publicado el mes pasado en la revista Geophysical Research encontró que el cambio climático está haciendo que los veranos sean más calurosos y largos, al tiempo que reduce las otras tres estaciones. La temperatura promedio de verano en los últimos cinco años ha sido 1.7 grados más cálida de lo que fue desde 1971 hasta 2000.
Más de 1 millón de trabajadores agrícolas trabajan bajo calor extremo cada día. Durante las temporadas altas de producción, julio y agosto, los jornaleros están en los campos durante 12 horas o más, en temperaturas que con frecuencia superan los 100 grados.
The death of a farmworker on May 14, 2005, east of Stockton, California, highlighted the sufferings of day laborers during the summer. María Isabel Vásquez Jiménez, originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, 17 years old and two months pregnant, worked in a vineyard in temperatures above 95 degrees. Her death and that of three other day laborers in previous years led California to adopt the law requiring shade, water and rest to prevent more deaths due to heat stroke.
Teresa Andrews, a community educator at the Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety at the University of California, Davis, remembers when scientific studies were being done to support the law.
"The study was specifically about how heat affects people,” Andrews said. “There was a group of experts who were visiting various agricultural sites, from Northern California to the border with Mexicali, and were looking at the different tasks that the workers did during the day. This study was done for three years in the summer season."
At the same time, scientists collected data on ambient temperature, humidity and other environmental factors.
The study revealed that even though most of the workers were under 40 years of age, by the end of the day, most of them were dehydrated. When a person is dehydrated, they are exposed to several health problems, including death.
"When the study was going to start, the death of a young farmworker, María Isabel Vásquez-Jiménez, was recorded, and this led Cal/OSHA to start the campaign of shade, water and rest," Andrews said. She adds that the center was an essential part of this campaign since its inception 17 years ago.
Since the initiative was signed into law in 2005 by then-Gov, Arnold Schwarzenegger, every year during the summer, California Division of Occupational Safety and Health and the UC Davis Western Center for Health and Safety in Agriculture have resumed the campaign and offered workshops in Spanish and English throughout the state to raise awareness among workers of their right to receive shade, water and rest if they need it.
Despite these efforts, in the last 12 years, 24-day laborers have died due to heat illness.
"Sometimes when I talk to them directly during training, they tell me they don't drink water because they're afraid they're going to go to the bathroom a lot, that the employer is going to get their attention because they're not working as fast," Andrews says.
Having water for consumption is the right of day laborers. Andrews says drinking water in small amounts is crucial to the farmworker's well-being. She uses simple concepts in her workshops to make farmworkers aware of the importance of always being hydrated.
"We don't have a little light that warns us about the lack of water, but we are thirsty, which is the signal to know that we are close to suffering from heat illness or heat stroke," says Andrews.
The community educator emphasizes the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion is caused when the body loses excessive amounts of water and salt, while in the potentially fatal heat stroke, the body cannot control its internal temperature. Heat stroke is a medical emergency.
The warning signs for heat exhaustion are as follows:
- Fever above 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Changes in mental state or behavior include confusion, agitation, and babbling.
- Hot, dry skin or excessive sweating.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Reddened skin.
- Accelerated pulse.
- Rapid breathing
Symptoms of Insolation/Heat Stroke are:
- Feeling thirsty.
- Intermittent muscle cramps in the extremities and abdomen.
- In insolation, abundant sweating occurs; in heat stroke, sweating ceases, and the skin is dry, hot, and red.
- Dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.
- Strong and irregular pulse.
- Rapid, noisy breathing.
- Body temperature is high.
According to data from Cal/OSHA, every year, at least three or four farmworkers die due to heat stroke.
"People get used to hearing science-based information, and it's meant to help them lead a better quality of life," Andrews says.
The work to create awareness that the Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety, CalOsha, and UC ANR are doing is critical because the threat of heat stroke is increasing as temperatures climb higher every summer. The study, published last month in the journal Geophysical Research, found that climate change is making summers hotter and longer while reducing the other three seasons. The average summer temperature over the past five years has been 1.7 degrees warmer than it was from 1971 to 2000.
Over 1 million farmworkers work under extreme heat each day. During peak production seasons, July and August, workers are in the fields for 12 hours or more, in temperatures that frequently exceed 100 degrees.
Jesús Peña recently earned his doctoral degree in microbiology from the University of California, Riverside. His motivation to study a career in science was decided from a very young age thanks to talks and teachings from his parents.
"My family played an important role in my decision to pursue science. My dad grew up in Mexico and wanted to be a science teacher, but he didn't have access to those opportunities," says Peña. "He and my mother encouraged me to be curious about the world and the environment and share that knowledge with others in my community," said the young Latino scientist.
Although the participation of Latinos in scientific careers is increasing every day, this group continues to be underrepresented in the workplace. A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center indicates that Latinos need more representation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers and fields to attract more young Hispanics to those careers.
"Latinos need to join the scientific workforce because we're among the many groups contributing to science through taxation. We must be represented among the workgroups, that is, the scientists." Peña said.
Latinos are one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the nation. In California, 39.4% of the population is Hispanic, and nationally, Latinos total 62.1 million in 2020, representing 19% of all Americans. That is, it is the second-largest ethnic group in the country, according to the United States Census Bureau.
Hence, increasing Latinos in the ranks of the sciences is a huge challenge that is being addressed by several scientists in University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, UC ANR, from different perspectives.
Jairo Díaz, director of the UCANR Desert Research and Extension Center, oversees a community program that invites groups of Latino grade school to college-age students to participate in activities that apply science in agriculture at Desert REC, where several experiments are underway to produce food using less water, among other studies.
Carmen Gispert, an entomologist at Extension Cooperatives in Riverside, Imperial, and San Diego counties, puts her interest in promoting scientific careers, especially among women.
"I have served as a mentor to high school students and encouraged them to pursue a career in science. The parents of many of these students were farmworkers. I have been particularly interested in motivating young women, telling them about my personal experience in a male-dominated career in science," Gispert said.
Liliana Vega, California 4-H youth development advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in Santa Barbara County, has launched a program called "Chispa" or "Career Spark," in which Hispanic professionals discuss with students their paths, barriers they faced when choosing to go to college, and careers in STEM.
Claudia Díaz-Carrasco, UC Cooperative Extension youth development advisor, is part of the 4-H Latino Initiative and has received numerous awards for her commitment to promoting scientific careers among Latinos. She is optimistic about the achievements made so far.
"I partnered with the San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools through his expanded learning division. We have been collaborating since 2019 to create a STEM center for after-school programs in the region. This team project has inspired the next generation of scientists and engineers in Southern California," Diaz-Carrasco said.
In 2015, UC ANR hosted the first annual conference "Juntos," which is part of UC ANR's Latino Initiative to increase the number of Latinos in higher education and science. At the conference, young Latino students from all over California live together for several days on a University Campus. They experience firsthand what it means to study at a university, in addition to hearing talks from Latino professionals from various disciplines to encourage them to continue their university studies and enter a career in STEM.
A few years ago, the 4-H Water Wizards program was launched, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or USDA, which aims to ensure that low-income Latino and African-American students have access to practical science from an early age through activities they develop with UC ANR Latino scientists who speak in their language.
The Pew Research Center reports young Hispanics would be at least slightly more likely to earn college degrees in STEM if they had a high school STEM teacher who was Latino.
Samuel Sandoval Solís, associate professor at the University of California, Davis and UC Cooperative Extension water resources specialist, points out that although progress has been made, hiring Latino scientists is slow in educational institutions.
"In the 10 years I've been teaching at UC Davis, students often mention that I'm their first science teacher who is Hispanic, so they don't feel represented on the faculty. While these may be small efforts, I think slowly, but surely the youth of our Hispanic community recognizes that it's possible to be a scientist; that's great for our young people," Sandoval Solis said.
- Author: Ricardo A. Vela
Pink dolphins stopped hiding on the coasts of Hong Kong and Macau. In Mumbai, the city was invaded by flamingos in numbers never seen before. Similar stories of wild animals strolling quietly through cities around the world made headlines as the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic kept humans locked up at home. People became more aware of the impact humans have on nature.
Fifty-two years ago, April was selected to raise awareness about the importance of preserving the ecological balance of our planet.
What began as a novel demonstration through the streets of Philadelphia and other major cities of the world has become an annual event to open people's eyes to see the damage that our actions are causing to our environment.
Moving to the present, April 22 is an urgent call to act and to counteract the effects of climate change.
"Global warming is happening because as there are higher emissions, we are putting more layers, more blankets on the Earth, so that's why the climate is tending to increase,” says Samuel Sandoval Solís, a University of California Cooperative Extension water resources specialist in UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Sandoval Solis adds that wildfires occur more easily and spread quickly at higher temperatures.
Rising temperatures over time are changing weather patterns and upsetting nature's usual balance. This poses many risks to humans and all other life forms on Earth. Among the most devastating effects of global warming are more frequent droughts.
Sandoval comments, "Droughts, there have always been droughts; the relationship that exists is that because the system has started to accelerate, then we are going to have them more frequently and severe."
With help from UC ANR scientists' research, even during droughts the production of fruits and vegetables has continued successfully. At the UC Desert Research Center, experts study how drip irrigation may solve drought and climate change. "It was stimulating to see," said lead author Holly Andrews, a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the University of Arizona. "Crop yields at least remained and, in some cases, increased, but water use and gas emissions decreased especially under drip irrigation."
Another effect of drought is the drying of plant material, which can fuel a wildfire. For seven years now, California has seen an increase in catastrophic fires.
"Contrary to popular belief, climate change does not produce forest fires. It promotes a greater amount of combustible material that can easily begin to burn. In 99% of cases, fires are caused by people," says Sandoval Solís.
UC ANR experts continuously analyze measures to prevent the spread of fires while creating wildfire-resilient communities. Before Europeans settled, Native Americans used "good fire" to manage forests. Rob York, a UC Cooperative Extension forest specialist who is based at Blodgett Forest Research Station, says that winter is the best season to use controlled fire.
Sabrina Drill, UC Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor, is part of a group of UC ANR researchers who have tested fire-resistant building materials and developed recommendations to create defensible space to reduce the chance of homes succumbing to flames in a wildfire and give residents enough time to escape.
"Wildfire preparedness requires YOU to take responsibility for your safety, property and pets in the event of a fire. Keep your property maintained to reduce the risk of damage during a wildfire and be fully prepared to evacuate," stated Drill.
Indian lawyer, political leader, and philosopher Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The land is not an inheritance from our parents, but a loan from our children."
Perhaps the best way to learn land management is by observing the customs of the native peoples of America. For indigenous peoples, Mother Earth is not an inert object, it is a source of life and is sacred, so one must live in harmony with her and find a balance so that it serves current and future generations.
UC ANR's California Naturalist Program offers activities through its multiple community partners that lead us to discover the importance of being one with nature regardless of whether one lives in an urban area. This group offers tools to take a more active role in conservation, education, and restoration of natural resources.
UC ANR offers vast and diverse ways to improve one's habits toward nature. Among these are the Master Gardener and California 4-H programs. They collaborate with less privileged families in urban areas and through community gardens, orchards, or plant care to show them how to coexist with nature.
At UC ANR, we are with you, and we can be partners in reducing the harmful effects of climate change. Join our experts to see the positive results of planting trees, composting waste, growing a home garden or school garden, and creating communities resilient to drought and wildfire. The planet belongs to everyone, now is the time to renew our commitment to save the planet. Global warming is everyone's responsibility. Let's do our part for its conservation.
- Author: Mike Hsu
Expanded from four chapters in the previous edition to 12, the third edition of Pesticide Safety: A Study Manual for Private Applicators aims to be more than just a study guide.
The manual, available for purchase in English and Spanish, provides much more detail on essential processes and procedures that will help keep applicators safe while using pesticides – as well as reduce environmental impacts from misapplication.
Published by University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources in collaboration with the state's Department of Pesticide Regulation, the manual – intended for members of the agricultural community who own, manage or work on farms that use restricted-use pesticides – also includes substantial updates.
The new manual reflects important changes to federal and state regulations since the publication of the previous edition in 2006.
“There are significant regulatory updates which help you stay up-to-date with safety rules and standards – and protect your workers from overexposure to pesticides,” said Lisa Blecker, technical editor of the publication, and currently a pesticide safety educator at Colorado State University.
In addition to emphasizing the broader ecological ramifications of improper pesticide use, the manual includes information on subjects that might get short shrift in other manuals, such as the correct calibration of equipment to ensure accuracy of application.
“All of that is now in the book and fully fleshed out,” Whithaus said. “[Applicators] are going to be able to do that much more effectively using the new book, compared to the old one – it was really hard to be thorough in 80-some pages.”
The new edition – totaling more than 200 substantive pages – also features a more streamlined and user-friendly layout modeled after a sister publication, The Safe and Effective Use of Pesticides, written for commercial applicators.
She highlighted the “knowledge expectations” listed at the beginning of each chapter and in the margins of the book, next to the relevant passages. The statements serve as “visual cues” to help readers learn and retain the material they need to pass California DPR's certification exam for private applicators.
And while the manual functions as an improved study aid for owners, managers and workers who apply pesticides, it doubles as a reference that they can turn to for years to come.
“It's going to be able to serve as a reference manual, as opposed to just a study guide,” Whithaus said. “You really will be able to use this book as a tool to help you do better in managing your land.”
The manual, listed at $29, is available for purchase in English at https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/Details.aspx?itemNo=3383 and in Spanish at https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/Details.aspx?itemNo=3394.