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Child Labor In North Carolina Tobacco Fields

Jim Dollar/Flickr
Tobacco harvest in North Carolina

Federal law permits children to work in agriculture from younger ages and for longer hours than any other industry.

A recent report by the advocacy group Human Rights Watch documents the exposure of children working on tobacco farms to nicotine, toxic pesticides, and other dangers. Half of American-produced tobacco is grown in North Carolina, and the report documents children in the state getting sick while working and not having sufficient access to protective gear or water. 

We are supposed to receive pesticide training every four years but we have never received one- Yesenia Cuello, former child farmworker

Host Frank Stasio talks to sisters who worked in tobacco fields as youth: Neftali Cuello and Yesenia Cuello. He also speaks with Margaret Wurth, children's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report; Sara Quandt, professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest School of Medicine; and Graham Boyd, executive vice president of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina.

There is a double standard when it comes to protecting child farmworkers- Margaret Wurth, Human Rights Watch researcher

Here is the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina's response to the report.

Here is a video produced by Human Rights Watch in conjunction with the report:

And here is child labor in tobacco fields featured on The Daily Show, including the voices of Margaret Wurth and youth from Poder Juvenil Campesino, the NC FIELD youth group that Neftali and Yesenia Cuello are a part of:

The Daily Show
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Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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