Image courtesy of CNN.com
Children may not be able to smoke tobacco, but they are able to work in the tobacco fields. Although they are not allowed to smoke tobacco, there are some who suffer the effects of nicotine exposure as they labor in U.S. tobacco fields. Isn't that tragic?
CNN.com reports that there is not an exact number of how many children work in the tobacco fields, but HRW (Human Rights Watch) have interviewed around 150 so far. The interview by the HRW showcased the dangers that these workers (children) faced.
75% of the children who worked in the fields have reported having similar symptoms from the nicotine exposure - nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, headaches, dizziness, irritation and difficulty breathing. HRW classified these as symptoms of acute nicotine poisoning. But nicotine is not their only danger. The children, as well as other workers, are exposed to pesticides and accidents caused by the sharp tools they use in the field are also common.
One of the biggest tobacco companies, Altria, says that they do not employ children under the age of 18 and that this company requires the employees to follow certain guidelines, best practices for labor management when it comes to harvesting tobacco. The guidelines address issues like avoiding acute nicotine poisoning and heat stress.
The study focused on four tobacco-growing states; North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. Children can legally work in the fields, and some as young as 11 and 12 do, reported CNN.com. During the summer, these children help their parents and support their families by working in these fields. The majority of these children are children of immigrant parents. These kids often work long hours with no overtime pay and not nearly enough breaks, all while being exposed to nicotine and other harmful dangers.
When an adult is hurt on the job or develops an occupational disease or condition from their work, they can file for worker's compensation. No matter what the job is. But are children barely old enough to work, being exposed to dangerous levels of nicotine, going to know about the harmful long term effects of the exposure? Highly unlikely.
Its hard enough for adult workers to know what they need to under workers compensation systems, how can we expect children workiing in tobacco fields, or their parents, to take steps to protect themselves. All workers, deserve the right to be protected while on the job. It is the duty of the employer to make sure all workers are heeding to the rules and guidelines that are set out to keep them safe on the job. While the thought of having children, young children, work in tobacco fields is unfathomable - they should still have the same rights and protection as their adult counterparts.
For more information about this story, go to www.cnn.com.