Gosford Road reopens after pesticide exposure

Crews respond to a pesticide exposure with farmworkers Wednesday morning, Aug. 2, 2017, in south Bakersfield, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

A Kern County hazmat crew decontaminated more than a dozen farmworkers Wednesday morning who were harvesting garlic in south Bakersfield after they were possibly exposed to pesticides.

About 70 workers were in the field when many of them started to feel eye irritation, nausea, dizziness and skin irritation.

Jesse Palazzo, one of the workers, said he thought he was the only one feeling the symptoms until he realized everyone else was rubbing their eyes.

"A bunch of us were working out there and all of a sudden everyone across the field, our eyes started to burn," said Palazzo. "It was like a really burning sensation. I couldn't see, my eyes were watering."

Kern County fire officials say 13 people were medically monitored after decontamination but they refused medical treatment. Two others later complained of feeling ill and were taken to a local hospital by an ambulance.

Glenn Fankhauser, the Kern County agricultural commissioner, said they are investigating if this was caused by pesticide drift.

He said the garlic harvesters were possibly surrounded by two highly hazardous pesticides: the soil fumigant metam sodium and chloprpyrifos.

"We don't know who could be at fault. Anybody can be at fault," said Fankhauser.

He said the investigation can take up to six months. But for many workers, they can't wait that long. Palazzo said he is going back to the garlic field tomorrow.

"I need the money. It's work," Palazzo said.

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