Punjabi Farm Workers in California Face Hazardous Work Conditions, Low Access to CareNew America Media on Thursday examined health issues of hundreds of Punjabi Indian farm workers in rural Sutter and Yuba counties in California "who often endure hazardous working conditions, substandard pay, and little or no access to health care." Punjabis have worked in the Yuba-Sutter area since the early 1900s and typically are employed by the 300-plus Indian-American farm owners in the counties.
According to 2000 census estimates, as many as 2,000 Punjabi workers live in the area, New America Media reports. The farmers help with the fruit and nut harvesting, which involves working with potentially dangerous pesticides and chemicals for up to 10 hours per day, New America Media reports. If absorbed into the skin, the chemicals can cause hives, flu-like symptoms, stomach cramps, diarrhea, blurred vision and other ailments, according to New America Media.
Exposure to some chemicals has been linked to impaired neurological development in fetuses and in infants, chronic fatigue syndrome and Parkinson's disease, New America Media reports. Dehydration is a particular concern among Punjabi farm workers, Faith Boucher, a former researcher at University of California-Davis, said. She added, "A new Western diet, combined with dehydration from hours of work in a hot field with no water -- that can upset your electrolyte balance and lead to heart disease."
According to New America Media, the majority of Indian-Americans living in Mahal Plaza -- a Yuba City, Calif., housing complex for low-income farm workers -- appear to receive basic health services through the county's public health department and rely on private physicians for nonprimary care (Gokkhale, New America Media, 6/14). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.