Pesticides & Health

Applicator sprays equipmentHandler cleans spray application equipment. Photo by PNASH
In the United States, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates around 10,000 and 20,000 annual agricultural-related poisoning and injury incidents occur through skin exposure and absorption. The Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (PNASH) work addresses those who are most vulnerable to pesticide exposure:

  • Pesticide handlers (mixers, loaders, and applicators) 
  • Children who an enhanced susceptibility to the uptake and toxicity of pesticides.

Overall, acute poisonings in the U.S. have declined due to improved products, application practices, and case reporting; yet common poisonings still occur. Some of these common exposures happen through the off-target movement of pesticides or splashes to the eye. A growing body of evidence reveals that long-term exposure can lead to more serious health effects including neurological diseases and cancers. 

PNASH Pesticide Resources

Pesticide Resources & Tools from PNASH & PESHUPractical Solutions for Pesticide Safety - Manual covers

  • Through the Nortwest Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSU), Dr. Catherine Karr offers a 1 CME (free) online course, Understanding Pediatric Outcomes from Pesticides and Nitrates.
  • Practical Solutions for Pesticide Safety (Spanish and English) is a training guide for pesticide handlers and educators. It offers a collection of 24 solutions or ideas to improve safety when working with pesticides. Solutions were identified on farms and developed in partnership with farmers, educators, and researchers in Washington State.
  • Fluorescent Tracer Training (Spanish and English) is a tool developed for pesticide applicator safety education, training, and self-evaluation. The FT technique is a powerful method for showing pesticide contamination and for helping workers evaluate their practices and protective equipment. Quick demos and hands-on activities make learning fun and memorable.

  • Organophosphate Pesticides & Child Health is a primer aimed at health care providers (also open to the general public). This online 1.5 hour course presents the current scientific evidence regarding health risks for children exposed to organophosphate pesticides (OPs). This information is needed to understand potential risks to pediatric patients and inform clinical problem solving regarding pesticide exposure.

  • Identifying, Managing and Preventing Pesticide Poisoning in Children: Basic Guidelines for Clinicians. This is a useful summary guide of the EPA’s Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings publication and is relevant for adult patients too. 

  • The Pesticide Health Effects Medical Education Database assembles a diverse collection of materials useful in the training of physicians, nurses, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners. Designed to provide clinical insight into the health effects of pesticides, the core content is focused on case-based trainings covering modern day environmental health hazards, exposure scenarios, signs and symptoms, and directives for treatment of exposed populations. 

  • Cholinesterase InhibitionGood Fruit Grower Magazine, 2009

  • Pesticide Handler Health Risks, Practical Solutions and a Safety Climate - Lessons from Washington State. StreamlineMigrant Clinicians Network, 2010 

Key Resources

Other Recommended Educational Materials