Nobody told Reina Lemus de Zelaya that her job as a farmworker was hazardous not only to her health, but to her unborn child.
So when Lemus de Zelaya was pregnant with one of her daughters, she
continued working in the agricultural fields in Florida. Not only was
she continually exposed to pesticides while pregnant, when her daughter
was born she even brought her baby to the fields in a stroller. No one
warned her to do otherwise.
“When I was pregnant with my first child, there was a strong
pesticide used in the fields but I had no idea it was going to affect my
baby,” said Lemus de Zelaya.
Her daughter was born with asthma, and struggled with it in school.
She was diagnosed with learning disabilities. Lemus de Zelaya’s other
children didn’t have any of these problems. The family doctor said these
problems were caused by pesticide exposure, but he suggested she change
jobs rather than speak out.
“At that time I had no idea how to protect myself or my children from the risks of pesticides,” she said.
Two decades later, Lemus de Zelaya’s husband, Miguel, and their other
daughter, Selena, 18, are joining several other farmworker families and
advocates in a visit to D.C. this week to call on Congress to strengthen the Worker Protection Standard and implement stronger protections for farmworkers from hazardous pesticides.