or assessed. Biological and toxic chemicals may have different effects at different stages of physiological development and may be more damaging to children than to adults with similar exposures.
Risks faced by Spanish-speaking children go beyond agricultural hazards. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of injury-related deaths for Hispanics; poisonings are second (CDC, 1998). Hispanic children are at higher risk than non-Hispanic whites for injuries resulting from violence. Hispanics’ lower education levels and higher poverty levels, along with the family disruption and weak intergenerational ties caused by migration, have been shown to increase risk for violent behavior.
The number of Spanish-speaking children working in agriculture is large and the likelihood of work-related injury and disease is high (Castillo et al., 1999; Kebebew, 1998; Stallones and Switzer, 1999). Some health and safety preventive measures have been developed to protect children on the traditional U.S. family farm (Lee and Marlenga, 1999; Lee, et al., 2002; NCASH, 1988; NCCAIP, 1996;). However, Spanish-speaking children in agriculture merit interventions developed and targeted especially at them: one size does not fit all. All efforts require thorough evaluation from the perspective of culture and the Spanish language. The diverse needs of Spanish-speaking children and their different environments must be considered. The integration of socio-cultural, developmental, and language circumstances will be a challenge for health and safety professionals. Occupational health risk interventions for Spanish-speaking children can begin with multiparty translations of existing intervention models and the targeting of suitable resources toward this new workforce. For the promotion of health and safety information to succeed in this multicultural and multilingual agricultural industry, the art and science of communication of health risks must be transformed to meet the special needs of children in agriculture.
Communication of occupational risks to agricultural employers, parents, and especially Spanish-speaking children requires concentrated efforts to convey culturally appropriate messages to meet the needs of each target group (Finau, 2000). Adequate risk communications engage a tripartite interaction between the sender (health and safety professional), receiver (employer, parent, child) and the medium (hands on, written, visual) (Finau, 2000). The ultimate goal of health and safety professionals must be to provide the optimal environment for all these children to become healthy adults.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports more than 2.25 million full-time workers employed in agriculture. If unpaid farm workers and family members 14 and older are included, nearly 4.5 million persons work in agriculture (CDC, 2001). Even though the U.S. agricultural sector provides an increasing and affordable supply of food and fiber, agriculture continues to have the second highest fatal occupational injury and serious non-fatal injury rates for U.S. workers (DOL, 2000a,c). In 2000 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nearly 6,000 workers were killed on the job from traumatic injuries and more than 6.3 million suffered other injuries or illnesses (Caswell et al., 2001; DOL, 2000a). The national cost of injury has been estimated to be more than $50 billion annually (Castillo et al., 1998; DOL, 2000a). Costs for job-related injuries and illnesses are higher than those for AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease and are on a par with those for cancer and circulatory disease, the two greatest causes of mortality (CDC, 2001).
The exact number of children working by industry sector is unknown due to diversity in definitions and seasonal variations, particularly in agriculture. Data show that over half of children have held some kind of job in industry by the age of 14 (DOL, 2000c). There are approximately 1 million children (under 15 years of age) who reside in farm operator households,