Muck meeting

As federal and state officials sift through data and dead birds to determine what poisons are still left around lake Apopka, a state health official admits that information about toxic effects on people is scarce. "The problem is," says Andy Reich of the Florida Department of Health, "most doctors don't know what pesticide poisoning looks like."

The comments came at an April 28 Farm Workers Association forum. About 50 people heard Reich and Orange County epidemiologist Bill Toth join David Stites of the St. Johns River Water Management District discuss what's being done to protect human health on the lake.

The meeting buzzed with rumors of farmworkers' coverups. Workers were kept away from worker's compensation and even from hospitals to avoid creating a paper trail, a woman said. One man said he knew of a worker whose death brought an $80,000 payoff to his family. He could not recall the family's or the farm's name.

The water management district says this week it begins a contract with a new laboratory to analyze the soil, water and animal samples. The Farm Workers Association wants to hear from anyone who suspects someone suffered health effects from farm chemicals in the region.

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