Human Rights Watch has discovered that children in eastern North Carolina as young as 14 are picking tobacco. Other reports claim that children maybe working as young as 9. \

“Fifteen-year-old “Elena” is typical. She would get up at 3 a.m. to make lunches, she said, then go up and down the rows removing flowers from tobacco plants for 12 or more hours a day. “It smells of chemicals and it gives you a headache,” she told me. “Sometimes I feel like vomiting… We can’t get sick because then we can’t work.”

“Elena’s sickness may have been more than an inconvenience. A 17-year-old tobacco worker told me: “They sprayed the field next to us yesterday. My head hurt. I could smell it, it blew. We kept working. People say this can hurt you. I’m a little, a little worried about it.” Children, whose bodies are still developing, are uniquely vulnerable to chemicals and may absorb pesticides more easily than adults. Long-term pesticide exposure is associated with cancer, brain damage, and reproductive problems.”

We must never forget that the regulations upon big businesses came at a tremendous toll. Worker protections like the eight hour day and children’s labor laws took lifetimes to obtain. Those protections, or what opponents call “regulations,” can be unravelled in one political cycle. There are those among the rich will never rest until those protections are undone and they can exploit workers with no constraints. The rest of us must keep vigil as well on behalf those who