Outstanding story from NPR today; really powerful stuff.
Listen to the NPR report here.
Kids, some as young as 12 years old, are helping to harvest tobacco crops through much of the South. NPR interviewed Eddie Ramirez, a Honduran kid who picks tobacco with his migrant family in the South:
“In the mornings, tobacco is wet because of the dew and, like, the rows are narrow and the tobacco is really big. You just feel like you’re suffocating or can’t breathe really well,” he says. “You just want to stop and not do it no more.”
Well, all that tobacco is absolutely leaking nicotine, and as I’ve talked about especially a lot lately, nicotine is actually poisonous, especially to kids. So, these young kids are absorbing nicotine through the hands and skin by working in the tobacco fields all day (Remember a story I posted about a woman ending up in the emergency room because she fell asleep on a bottle of liquid nicotine for her e-cigarette and got severe nicotine poisoning because it was absorbed into her system through skin contact?)
In the NPR article:
“We found that the overwhelming majority of kids we interviewed got sick while they were working in tobacco fields with nausea, headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness,” says Human Rights Watch researcher Margaret Wurth. “And many of the symptoms they reported are consistent with acute nicotine poisoning, which happens when workers absorb nicotine through their skin.”
A group called Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 100 children who work in tobacco fields, but has no idea how many kids are really doing this … and possibly getting sick from it. The group is calling for the end of using child labour in tobacco fields, and is calling on Big Tobacco to take a more active role in stopping it.
Of the 133 kids interviewed by HRW, more than 66 percent reported feeling sick with symptoms consistent with nicotine poisoning; 73 percent report getting sick in the fields with other symptoms.
Just awful story, and it’s being enabled by the Labor Department, which refused under political pressure (gosh, from where, I wonder? RJR and Philip Morris, no doubt) to implement tougher work standards for employers hiring crews to work in tobacco fields.
Anyway, a great story that sheds a light on something that needed to be exposed, and needs to stop.