20140514 Tobacco Report

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H U M A N R I G H T S W A T C H TOBACCO’S HIDDEN CHILDREN Hazardous Child Labor in United States Tobacco Farming HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH Tobacco?s Hidden Chi
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H U M A N R I G H T S W A T C H TOBACCO’S HIDDEN CHILDREN Hazardous Child Labor in United States Tobacco Farming HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH Tobacco?s Hidden Children Hazardous Child Labor in United States Tobacco Farming Copyright © 2014 Human Rights Watch All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America ISBN: 978-1-62313-1340 Cover design by Rafael Jimenez Human Rights Watch defends the rights of people worldwide. We scrupulously investigate abuses, expose the facts widely, and pressure those with power to respect rights and secure justice. Human Rights Watch is an independent, international organization that works as part of a vibrant movement to uphold human dignity and advance the cause of human rights for all. Human Rights Watch is an international organization with staff in more than 40 countries, and offices in Amsterdam, Beirut, Berlin, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Goma, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Nairobi, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto, Tunis, Washington DC, and Zurich. For more information, please visit our website: http://www.hrw.org MAY 2014 978-1-62313-1340 Tobacco’s Hidden Children Hazardous Child Labor in United States Tobacco Farming Summary ........................................................................................................................... 1 Methodology.................................................................................................................... 22 I. Tobacco Farming in the United States ............................................................................ 25 Tobacco Production ................................................................................................................ 25 Structure of the Tobacco Economy .......................................................................................... 25 Changes in US Policy and Impacts on Farms and Labor........................................................... 26 Tobacco Types, Farming, and Curing ....................................................................................... 27 II. Child Tobacco Workers in the United States .................................................................. 30 Child Tobacco Workers ...........................................................................................................30 Why Children Work .................................................................................................................32 III. Health and Safety ........................................................................................................ 35 Sickness while Working ..........................................................................................................36 Skin Conditions, Respiratory Illness, and Eye and Mouth Irritation ..........................................42 Exposure to Pesticides............................................................................................................ 45 Extreme Heat .......................................................................................................................... 52 Work with Dangerous Tools, Machinery, and at Heights ........................................................... 53 Repetitive Motions and Lifting Heavy Loads ........................................................................... 60 Lack of Personal Protective Equipment....................................................................................63 Lack of Health Education and Safety Training ..........................................................................67 Inadequate Access to Water, Sanitation, and Shade............................................................... 69 IV. Hours, Wages, and Education ...................................................................................... 75 Excessive Working Hours and Lack of Sufficient Breaks ........................................................... 75 Wages ................................................................................................................................... 80 Education ...............................................................................................................................85 V. International Legal Standards ...................................................................................... 88 ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labor.................................................................. 88 Convention on the Rights of the Child ..................................................................................... 95 Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ........................................................... 95 The Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health .......................................................... 96 Corporate Responsibility ........................................................................................................97 VI. Obligations of the US Government to Protect Child Farmworkers............................... 100 Protection for Child Farmworkers under US Law ..................................................................... 100 Enforcement of Existing Laws ................................................................................................ 105 VII. Responsibilities of Businesses Purchasing Tobacco in the United States ................. 108 Response to Human Rights Watch .......................................................................................... 111 Companies’ Child Labor Policies ........................................................................................... 112 Tobacco Leaf Merchant Companies ....................................................................................... 124 Industry-Wide Multilateral Initiatives .................................................................................... 126 VIII. Recommendations................................................................................................... 129 To the US Congress ............................................................................................................... 129 To the President of the United States .................................................................................... 130 To the US Senate ...................................................................................................................131 To the US Department of Labor ..............................................................................................131 To the US Environmental Protection Agency .......................................................................... 132 To All Tobacco-Producing US States ...................................................................................... 132 To Tobacco Product Manufacturers and Tobacco Leaf Merchant Companies .......................... 133 To Agricultural Employers ..................................................................................................... 137 To the International Labour Organization Office .................................................................... 138 Acknowledgments .......................................................................................................... 139 Min HTHurt Car'nlir' a, T-E-r1nes5ee, SUMMARY HIDDEN CHILDREN 1 A 16-year-old worker in Kentucky holds an axe for cutting down tobacco plants during the harvest and a pointed “spike” used for impaling the plants on wooden sticks for curing. Children may cut themselves when using sharp tools that are part of tobacco harvesting. © 2013 Marcus Bleasdale/VII for Human Rights Watch Summary The hardest of all the crops we’ve worked in is tobacco. You get tired. It takes the energy out of you. You get sick, but then you have to go right back to the tobacco the next day. —Dario A., 16-year-old tobacco worker in Kentucky, September 2013 I would barely eat anything because I wouldn’t get hungry. …Sometimes I felt like I needed to throw up. …I felt like I was going to faint. I would stop and just hold myself up with the tobacco plant.— Elena G., 13-year-old tobacco worker in North Carolina, May 2013 Children working on tobacco farms in the United States are exposed to nicotine, toxic pesticides, and other dangers. Child tobacco workers often labor 50 or 60 hours a week in extreme heat, use dangerous tools and machinery, lift heavy loads, and climb into the rafters of barns several stories tall, risking serious injuries and falls. The tobacco grown on US farms is purchased by the largest tobacco companies in the world. Ninety percent of tobacco grown in the US is cultivated in four states: North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. Between May and October 2013, Human Rights Watch interviewed 141 child tobacco workers, ages 7 to 17, who worked in these states in 2012 or 2013. Nearly three-quarters of the children interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported the sudden onset of serious symptoms—including nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, headaches, dizziness, skin rashes, difficulty breathing, and irritation to their eyes and mouths—while working in fields of tobacco plants and in barns with dried tobacco 2 Tobacco’s Hidden Children Tobacco’s Hidden Children 3 A 16-year-old worker harvests tobacco on a farm in Kentucky. © 2013 Marcus Bleasdale/VII for Human Rights Watch leaves and tobacco dust. Many of these symptoms are consistent with acute nicotine poisoning. Based on our findings set out in this report, Human Rights Watch believes that no child under age 18 should be permitted to perform work in which they come into direct contact with tobacco in any form, including plants of any size or dried tobacco leaves, due to the inherent health risks posed by nicotine and the pesticides applied to the crop. The US government, US Congress, and tobacco manufacturing and tobacco leaf supply companies should all take urgent steps to progressively remove children from such tasks in tobacco farming. In the US, it is illegal for children under 18 to buy cigarettes or other tobacco products. However, US law fails to recognize the risks to children of working in tobacco farming. It also does not provide the same protections to children working in agriculture as it does to children working in all other sectors. In agriculture, children as young as 12 can legally work for hire for unlimited hours outside of school on a tobacco farm of any size with parental permission, and children younger than 12 can work on small farms owned and operated by family members. Outside of agriculture, the employment of children under 14 is prohibited, and even 14 and 15-year-olds can only work in certain jobs for a limited number of hours each day. Tobacco’s Hidden 4 they came to kill Children Tobacco’s Hidden Children 5 15-year-old Grace S. told Human Rights Watch why she decided to start working in tobacco farming in North Carolina: “I just wanted to help out my mom, help her with the money.” Most children interviewed by Human Rights Watch were seasonal workers who resided in states where tobacco was grown and worked on farms near their homes or in neighboring areas, primarily or exclusively during the summer months when tobacco is cultivated. We also spoke to several children who migrated to and within the United States by themselves or with their families to work in tobacco and other crops. There is no comprehensive estimate of the number of child farmworkers in the US. A 15-year-old worker removes flowers from the tops of tobacco plants on a farm in North Carolina. Many children work in fields of tall tobacco plants, pulling the flowers off the tops of plants, among other tasks. Most work without gloves or other protective gear, exposing them to nicotine and pesticides. © 2013 Human Rights Watch Tobacco farmed in the US enters the supply chains of at least eight major manufacturers of tobacco products who either purchase tobacco through direct contracts with tobacco growers or through tobacco leaf supply companies. These include Altria Group, British American Tobacco, China National Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco Group, Japan Tobacco Group, Lorillard, Philip Morris International, and Reynolds American. Some of these companies manufacture the most popular brands of cigarettes sold in the US, including Marlboro, Newport, Camel, and Pall Mall. All companies that purchase tobacco in the US directly or indirectly have responsibilities to ensure protection of children from hazardous 6 Tobacco’s Hidden Children labor, including on tobacco farms, in their supply chains in the US and globally. Child tobacco workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch for this report typically described beginning to work on tobacco farms at age 13, often together with their parents and older siblings. Only very few worked on family farms. The children we interviewed were mostly the sons and daughters of Hispanic immigrants, though they themselves were frequently US citizens. Regardless of employment or immigration status, the children described working in tobacco to help support their families’ basic needs or to buy essential items such as clothing, shoes, and school supplies. For example, Tobacco is a labor-intensive crop, and the children interviewed described participating in a range of tasks, including: planting seedlings, weeding, “topping” tobacco to remove flowers, removing nuisance leaves (called “suckers”), applying pesticides, harvesting tobacco leaves by hand or with machines, cutting tobacco plants with “tobacco knives” and loading them onto wooden sticks with sharp metal points, lifting sticks with several tobacco plants, hanging up and taking down sticks with tobacco plants in curing barns, and stripping and sorting dried tobacco leaves. Health and Safety Risks in Tobacco Farming Children interviewed by Human Rights Watch in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia frequently described feeling seriously, acutely sick, while working in tobacco farming. For example, Carla P., 16, works for hire on tobacco farms in Kentucky with her parents and her younger sister. She told Human Rights Watch she got sick while pulling the tops off tobacco plants: “I didn’t feel well, but I still kept working. I started throwing up. I was throwing up for like 10 minutes, just what I ate. I took a break for a few hours, and then I went back to work.” Emilio R., a 16-yearold seasonal worker in eastern North Carolina, who plans to study to be an engineer, said he had headaches that sometimes lasted up to two days while working in tobacco: “With the headaches, it was hard to do anything at all. I didn’t want to move my head.” Many of the symptoms reported by child tobacco workers are consistent with acute nicotine poisoning, known as Green Tobacco Sickness, an occupational health risk specific to tobacco farming that occurs when workers absorb nicotine through their skin while having prolonged contact with tobacco plants. Public health research has found dizziness, headaches, nausea, and vomiting are the most common symptoms of acute nicotine poisoning. Though the long-term effects of nicotine absorption through the skin are unknown, public health research on smoking indicates that nicotine exposure during adolescence may have long-term adverse consequences for brain development. Public health research indicates that non-smoking adult tobacco workers have similar levels of nicotine in their bodies as smokers in the general population. In addition, many children told Human Rights Watch that they saw tractors spraying pesticides in the fields in which they were working or in adjacent fields. They often described being able to smell or feel the chemical spray as it drifted over them, and reported burning eyes, burning noses, itchy skin, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, shortness of breath, redness and swelling of their mouths, and headache after coming into contact with pesticides. Yanamaria W., 14, who worked on tobacco farms in central Kentucky in 2013 with her parents and 13-year-old brother, told Human Rights Watch, “I was in the field when they started spraying…. I can stand the heat for a long time, but Tobacco’s Hidden Children 7 Workers, including a 17-year-old boy, stand on narrow rafters while hanging tobacco to dry in a barn in Kentucky. Many workers reported having difficulty breathing while hanging tobacco in curing barns or handling dried tobacco. © 2013 Marcus Bleasdale/VII for Human Rights Watch 8 Tobacco’s Hidden Children Tobacco’s Hidden Children 9 A 17-year-old worker stands in a field of harvested tobacco plants in Kentucky. © 2013 Marcus Bleasdale/VII for Human Rights Watch when they spray, then I start to feel woozy and tired. Sometimes it looks like everything is spinning.” While pesticide exposure is harmful for farmworkers of all ages, children are uniquely vulnerable to the adverse effects of toxic exposures as their bodies are still developing, and they consume more water and food, and breathe more air, pound for pound, than adults. Tobacco production involves application of a range of chemicals at different stages in the growth process, and several pesticides commonly used during tobacco farming are known neurotoxins. According to public health experts and research, longterm and chronic health effects of pesticide exposure include respiratory problems, cancer, neurologic deficits, and reproductive health problems. Children also said that they used sharp tools, operated heavy machinery, and climbed to significant heights in barns while working on tobacco farms. Several children reported sustaining injuries, including cuts and puncture wounds, from working with tools. For example, Andrew N., 16, described an accident he had while harvesting tobacco in Tennessee two years earlier: “My first day, I cut myself [on the leg] with the hatchet. … I probably hit a vein or something because it wouldn’t stop bleeding and I had to go to the hospital. They stitched it. … My foot was all covered in blood.” Many children described straining their backs and taxing their muscles while lifting heavy loads and performing repetitive motions, including working bent over at the waist, twisting their wrists to top tobacco plants, crawling on hands and knees, or reaching above their heads for extended periods of time. Bridget F., 15, injured her back in 2013 while lifting sticks of harvested tobacco up to other workers 10 Tobacco’s Hidden Children Tobacco’s Hidden Children 11 A female worker harvests tobacco in a field of wet plants. Because many employers do not provide workers with protective equipment, workers often cover themselves with black plastic garbage bags to keep their clothes dry while working in tobacco fields wet from dew or rain. © 2013 Marcus Bleasdale/VII for Human Rights Watch in a barn in northeastern Kentucky: “I’m short, so I had to reach up, and I was reaching up and the tobacco plant bent over, and I went to catch it, and I twisted my back the wrong way.” According to public health research, the impacts of repetitive strain injuries may be long-lasting and result in chronic pain and arthritis. Federal data on fatal occupational injuries indicate that agriculture is the most dangerous industry open to young workers. In 2012, two-thirds of children under the age of 18 who died from occupational injuries were agricultural workers, and there were more than 1,800 nonfatal injuries to children under 18 working on US farms. Nearly all children interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that their employers did not provide health education, safety training, or personal 12 Tobacco’s Hidden Children protective equipment to help them minimize their exposure to nicotine from tobacco leaves or pesticides sprayed in the fields and on the plants. Children typically used gloves, which they or their parents bought, and large black plastic garbage bags, w
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