1980’s: Bowen tomato pickers health problems

*** worked as a tomato picker in North Queensland for 16 years spending up to 60 hours a week in the fields at the height of the season. By 1983 she had developed symptoms of pesticide poisoning; headaches, a swollen face, skin rashes, hair loss, blood blisters on the mouth, brittle hair, hair loss and bad nerves. Her condition worsened and she contracted a blood disorder. There is no doubt in Rhonda’s mind about her exposure. She recalls direct contact with pesticides on the actual plants as well as contact with contaminated spray equipment and clothing. She also recalls being covered with spray from planes, and breathing in the fumes as she worked. Most of her workmates had allergies and headaches in the picking season and she knows of six other Bowen residents with the same blood disorder as hers. Curiously, she noted, her condition was first described as a response to quinine, and later to the sedative carbromol, but her doctor dismissed the suggestions that pesticides could induce a similar response. ‘All the doctors I went to told me that my problem would not be caused by chemicals that I was exposed to every day of my working life. Like a fool, I believed them.  p230 Quick Poison Slow Poison. Pesticide Risk in the Lucky Country. 1994 Kate Short