Pesticide spraying on farms often includes the organophosphate malathion. Malathion kills many types of ants, moths, and other pests that eat crops, and is especially known for its use in eradication of boll weevils, according to the NOAA. The federal government allows malathion spraying, although it does require caution in the use of this pesticide.
Farmers often spray malathion aerially, so it can quickly cover a large field. Helicopters and small aircraft frequently distribute the pesticide. This potentially spreads it over a large area, which is a concern in cities such as Oxnard and Camarillo where there are many large housing tracts near the farms. In addition, schools are often close to the fields as well.
State departments of health may cite a grower for the inappropriate use of malathion. According to the Washington State Department of Health, a helicopter sprayed malathion on several farmworkers without adequate protection, causing them to get sick and the grower to receive warning citations. The government does not always issue a fine, but this could provide information for a civil suit, since it’s known that the farmworkers were affected. The Washington State Department of Health states that malathion residue lingers for up to twelve hours after spraying.
USAID was involved in a much more serious malathion incident in 1974. USAID supplies pesticides, fertilizers, and farm equipment to various countries in need. When USAID provided malathion to farmworkers in Pakistan who were not aware of the handling procedures for malathion, five of them died from malathion exposure and US activists sued the agency. USAID establishes environmental safeguards so this does not happen again.