In early November, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it will award a $30,000 grant to Legal Aid Chicago. The Chicago-based organization will use the funds to conduct pesticide research and educate farmworkers on pesticide use.

Corn detasseling workers in central Illinois and fruit harvesters in southern Illinois will be surveyed as part of The Pesticide Assessment Project of Illinois. Researchers aim to learn about their knowledge of pesticide use, educate workers on pesticide awareness, examine pesticide use and research, and investigate possible violations or worker illness caused by pesticides.

Ultimately, researchers hope to compile a final report that helps improve the health of the Illinois migrant farmworker population.

Pesticide Misuse in Illinois

Illinois has regulated pesticides since 1966 — one of the first states to do so. At present, it still has one of the most comprehensive licensing and enforcement programs that’s even more stringent than federal guidelines.

When pesticides aren’t used properly, pesticide-drift can harm susceptible vegetation, wildlife, and water supplies, according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture.  In fact, the department receives roughly 120 pesticide misuse complaints each year. Approximately 60% of the complaints are related to drift.

According to the Department, pesticide misuse is often easy to spot. Telltale signs can include plants that become spotted, curled, or die when exposed to a certain pesticide. Often times this is due to wind carrying the pesticide from the area where it was sprayed.

About the EPA Environmental Justice Small Grants Program

In 2019, the EPA awarded $1.5 million in grants to 50 organizations fighting environmental justice issues in their local area. Half of the selected groups support communities designated as federal Opportunity Zones — i.e., economically-distressed communities where new investments could be eligible for preferential tax treatment.

The program is crucial to organizations in underserved and overburdened communities that otherwise lack resources. The 2019 grants will help groups in 27 states and Puerto Rico conduct research, provide education and training, and create initiatives to solve local health and environmental issues.

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