Quoted from The Pesticide Conspiracy, by entomologist Robert Van Den Bosch:

“As we drove along a country road a few miles north of the city of Blythe, we came upon a cantaloupe field where a bare-chested man was loading pesticide into the hopper of a parked crop-dusting rig. Since we had been driving for some time without finding a suitable candidate experimental plot, we decided to stop and ask the rig driver whether he knew of some nearby alfalfa fields.

“The man, a bracero, or ‘wetback,’ [sic] with work to do and intent on getting it done, nevertheless smiled as we approached and halted his labors as we asked in a mixture of English and Spanish whether there were any alfalfa fields in the area. He didn’t know, since he was new to the ranch, having just replaced another worker, who had fallen ill. We thanked him, and then just to make conversation, asked him what pest he was dusting.


“‘Oh, aphids. What pesticide are you using?’

“‘I don’t know, I can’t read the label; just some medicine for pulgones.’

“As is the habit of our breed, [entomologist Vernon] Stern and I automatically flicked our eyes to the label on the pesticide sack. It read PARATHION. Parathion is one of the deadliest nerve-gas derivatives among the modern insecticides. We were stunned. Here was this smiling, bare-chested laborer, his body frosted with parathion dust, breathing it in and licking it off his sweat-moistened lips, totally ignorant of his peril.Little wonder his predecessor had fallen ill! As best we could, Stern and I implored him to immediately stop his dusting activities, strip off his remaining clothing and jump into the nearest irrigation ditch to wash off the poison. But his response was a friendly laugh, an adiós, and the resumption of his crop-dusting activity. He was a happy young man, with a well-paying job, a boss to satisfy, and no more time to waste with a couple of silly gringos all worked up over some bug medicine.

“When we got back to town we reported the matter to the local agricultural authorities, who, I am quite sure, never did a thing about it. But even today, years later, I occasionally fret over that cheerful Mexican youth and wonder how long it was before he, too, became ill and gave way to an equally innocent successor.”

Robert Van Den Bosch, The Pesticide Conspiracy, 1978, pg. 73-74.