Research & Publications

Heat illness prevention field survey. Photo by J. Carmona
Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center projects are multidisciplinary and respond to a variety of needs, from health care and monitoring to safety engineering and training.

Projects are competitively reviewed and funded. Topics we propose:

  • Address hazards that are the most serious, affect the greatest number of workers, and where that research will make a difference.
  • Meet the needs of Northwest employers, workers, and service providers. We have established a process that engages constituencies from agricultural, health, and safety to help us establish research priorities.

PNASH Research Priorities

  • Forestlands Agenda
  • Farm Agenda
  • Sort research priorities by status, type, or topic area (below).

    Spanish Glossary of Forestry Services Terms

    (Oregon OSHA 2015-2016) This small project supported by Oregon OSHA will produce a glossary of forestry services terms in Spanish using the most common Spanish idiom used by forestry services firms. Hispanic forestry workers provide valuable work in various forest management activities and they face many hazards. Language barriers and the use of specific technical and lay jaron, complicates effective safety communication. Workers are unfamiliar with the tasks they perform, forest management practices, and goals.

    Protecting the Logging Workforce: Development of Innovative Logging Techniques for a Safer Working Environment

    (NIOSH/CDC 2015-2018) Logging represents the most dangerous occupation in the United States, retaining the highest fatality and injury rates. Until recently, the Northwest's steep slopes have restricted the adoption of the safer, mechanized, practices that have swept the US.

    Heat Exposure, Injury Risk, and Productivity in Agricultural Workers

    (NIOSH 2014-2017) This project examines the association between heat exposure and traumatic injury risk in agricultural workers, the relationship between heat stress and productivity, and the feasibility of using a biomarker of heat acclimation to detect workers at risk for heat-related illness and injury, with the ultimate goal of prevention.

    Pilot: Non-Fatal Injuries among Commercial Fishing Workers in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon

    (PNASH Pilot Project 2014-2015) With PNASH funding, this project addresses a high hazard occupation where information on non-fatal (but serious) injuries are limited. This pilot estimates non-fatal injuries among commercial fishermen, describes high-risk work processes, and identifies particularly vulnerable worker populations, such as young workers.

    Safety and Health of Latino Immigrant Forestry Services Workers in the Pacific Northwest

    (NIOSH 2014-2017) The forest service workforce in the Pacific Northwest is largely immigrant, low-literate and Spanish-speaking with unique vulnerabilities due to a lack of skills and safety training, occupational immobility, remote work locations, and small contractor employment. This research-to-practice project will examine how working conditions for Latino immigrant forest workers contribute to work-related injuries and illnesses.

    Pilot: GRAS2P Food Safety Video

     (PNASH Pilot Project 2013-2015) This video project will integrate current pesticide safety standards into the video, Fieldworker Orientation and Food Safety/Orientation/Orientation para el Trabajador Agricola y Seguridad Alimenticia. The video is bilingual and will be used by growers and workers in Washington and across the United States to insure effective food safety practices.

    Pilot: Fishing Industry Filipino Migrant and Immigrant Work in the Subarctic

    (PNASH Pilot 2013-2015) Filipino migrant and immigrants are the dominant racial/ethnic workforce in fish processing in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, Alaska, composing 28% of the total resident population. This pilot project will asses risk factors for occupational illness and injury due to physically demanding work and unpredictable working conditions among Dutch Harbor/Unalaska's Filipino migrant fishing workers.

    Improving PPE Effectiveness in Agricultural Applications

     (WA State MAAF 2012-2014) This project responds to specified PPE needs for the tree fruit and related  industries in Washington State that can reduce pesticide handler exposure and potential pesticide related illness.  Needs were identified by the Expert Working Group established by the "Interventions to Minimize Worker and Family Pesticide Exposure" project.  One was for a personal protective equipment (PPE) hat with a brim that can be worn under a PPE hood that will improve a pesticide handler's ability to see.

    Development of a Surveillance Strategy to Guide Injury Prevention Efforts in the Washington Commercial Fishing Industry

    (WA State MAAF 2011-2013) Dr. June Spector addressed a pressing information need – surveillance of non-fatal injuries. This project responded to a need for better understanding of nonfatal fishing injuries in order to identify areas where interventions are most needed to prevent injuries.

    Measurement of Farmworker OP Exposure through Protein Adducts

    (NIOSH 2011-2016) Organophosphorus (OP) pesticides cause illness through inhibition of cholinesterase, a critical enzyme in the nervous system. The overall goal of this project is to improve methods for detecting overexposure to organophosphorus pesticides (OPs). This will be achieved by developing two new analytical approaches based on detection of OP-protein adducts, and using these tools to measure pesticide exposures in agricultural workers who handle OP pesticides.

    Using IPM to Reduce Pyrethroid Pesticide Exposures in Dairy Workers

    (NIOSH 2011-2016) This project partners with Washington State University to reduce pesticide use in dairy operations by introducing Integrated Pest Management (IPM)  practices in these workplaces. We are working with a network of participants to develop a robust and practical IPM program that provides evidence for cost-effective interventions that can reduce pesticide usage in these farm operations.

    Pilot: Study of Risk Factors for Heat-Related Illness in Agricultural Workers

     (PNASH PIlot Project 2011-2013) While many occupational groups are at risk for heat-related illness (HRI), farmworkers are particularly at risk given their tasks involve heavy exertion in an outdoor setting. Much of the previous research regarding the morbidity of occupational HRI has focused on military personnel, firefighters, and miners or other industrial workers. This research has identified various risk factors for HRI (e.g. age, sex, fitness level, acclimatization, etc.).

    Pilot: Development of a Work Stress Survey for Farmworkers

     (PNASH Pilot Project 2011-2012) Workers in jobs with high work demands and low personal control exhibit physiological stress responses. Many factors impact the health of agricultural workers, including workplace hazards, exposure to chemicals, limited resources, and limited access to medical care. Seasonal variations in work demand can also lower their control over the work environment. This can increase the risk for adverse health effects in workers, which can then impact their families.

    Reducing Agricultural Worker Risks through New and Emerging Technologies

     (NIOSH/CDC 2011-2016) The overall objectives of this project are to 1) evaluate interventions designed to reduce agricultural worker exposure and risk during pesticide applications in tree fruit, and 2) effectively communicate project findings to workers, supervisors, orchardists, scientists and public health policymakers. Pesticide-related illness among agricultural workers and pesticide drift due to spraying remain significant public health concerns in the Pacific Northwest. Tree fruit production currently involves use of pesticides in high volumes, many highly toxic.

    Pilot: Assessing Agricultural Safety and Health among Hmong Farmers

     (NIOSH 2011-2013) This project collabored with Hmong refugee farmers in Washington State to identify and address farm hazards. Using novel community-based participatory approaches along with conventional industrial hygiene methods, a systematic assessment of the working conditions and practices of Hmong refugee farmers was conducted. The framework for this assessment was guided by the participatory rural appraisal (PRA) process and integrated Photovoice and farm worksite observational exposure assessments.

    Ergonomic Evaluation of Emerging Technologies in the Tree Fruit Industry

     (WA State MAAF 2009-2011, NIOSH/CDC 2011-2016) Technological advancement is important to American agriculture and will continue to transform work practices and equipment. The PNASH Center is working with the tree fruit industry to develop safety measures for mobile work platforms in order to design-out potential hazards. This project focuses on tree fruit agricultural activities that require high-intensity physical labor: pruning and structural cutting, green fruit thinning, and fruit harvesting.

    Pilot: Oregon Crab Fisherman Safety and Personal Flotation Device Survey

    (PNASH PIlot Project 2010-2011) The Oregon Crab Fishing Safety Assessment evaluated the effectiveness of current US Coast Guard and Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission safety initiatives and safety training programs, and field-tested five different PFDs; focusing on PFD attitudes, worker attitudes, and perceived risks. The results of this study provide feedback for policymakers and the industry considering additional safety measures, and contribute, with a local perspective, to future prevention-focused safety efforts in Oregon.

    Ergonomic Evaluation and Development of Best Practices for the Use of Mobile Work Platform Technology in Orchards

    (WA State MAAF 2009-2011) The PNASH Center worked to 'design-in' safety measures into developing agricultural technologies, such as mobile platforms. Mobile platforms are self propelled and self guided all terrain vehicles with an adjustable height platform that carry a team of 4-8 workers through the orchard at very low speeds (<1 mph) allowing for rapid and repetitive hand work without the change in position or tasks associated with ladder work. This change, if not carefully researched and implemented, could have adverse health, safety, and economic outcomes.

    Reducing Workloads for Older Loggers in Physically Demanding Logging Tasks with Synthetic Rope

    (PNASH Pilot, 2009-2011) In the US, logging is among the top three most dangerous jobs, and when all factors are considered, logging is likely the most dangerous job and the most exertive work. Data in OR, WA, and ID show that 50% of loggers are at least 45 years old -  and that percentage is growing. This pilot project assessed the ergonomic and economic benefits of using synthetic rope to replace wire rope in standardized logging tasks for older workers (>age 40) compared to current practices and younger workers.

    Confronting the Health Risks of Climate Change: Integrating Science and Public Health Practice to Improve Preparedness for Worsening Heat Events, Air Pollution, and Environmental Degradation in the NW

    (CDC/NIOSH 2009-2012) Climate change will have serious and long-term consequences for public health. The greatest impacts will be in cities with milder summers, less air conditioning and higher population density, which are characteristic of the Pacific Northwest. A multi-disciplinary team of UW scientists will evaluate the impact of climate change on human health in the Pacific Northwest, work with local communities to study health risks that will likely occur in the next 35 years and uncover how communities might mitigate those risks.

    Aggravating Factors of Asthma in a Rural Environment (AFARE)

    (NIEHS/CDC 2009-2014) This community based project characterized ambient triggers of asthma in the rural setting by following 50 (children and adults) asthmatic community participants, mapping their exacerbations and comparing these with known agricultural exposures. Subsequently, ambient sampling with an innovative and adaptable sampler  confirmed the nature of the exposures.  A multifaceted evaluation assessed the process, outcomes and impact of the program on the partnership, the participants, the clinical providers and the community.

    Pilot Project: Skills Retention in Commercial Fishing Training

    (NIOSH 2008-2009) Conducted by the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association, this project informed federal policy on how often refresher training is need for survival equipment and emergency drill conductors. This project is a good example of research helping policy makers in decision-making. The results of this study are important to commercial fishing vessel safety trainers as well. A further direction for research would be to find out what an optimum interval of refresher training would be by providing periodic refresher training of skills and measuring retention rates.

    Pilot Project: Investigation of the Apparent Discrepancy Between Observed Cholinesterase Depression among Pesticide Handlers in Washington and Regulatory Estimates of Exposure

    (NIOSH 2008-2010) This small project predicted expected ChE depression based on regulatory decision-making frameworks and compares those predictions with actual outcomes in Washington State’s ChE monitoring program. Scientists at PNASH and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are working to improve the current ChE laboratory test – increasing accuracy to ensure a ChE depression is due to pesticide exposure and identify the specific pesticide involved.

    Sustainable Harvest Project

    (Laura Jane Musser Foundation, 2008-2009) This stakeholder driven project aimed to reduce un-permitted harvesting of special forest products (SFPs) in the Forks, Washington area and increase the overall health of the environment and the workers. In a one-year effort, the Sustainable Harvest project brought together harvesters, public and private landowners, and local city and tribal government representatives.

    Pilot: Characterization of Bioaerosols in Washington Dairy Barns

    (NIOSH 2007-2008) Dairy workers in concentrated animal feeding operations may be at risk for respiratory illness from bioaerosols. This exploratory project in partnership with Washington State University quantified both organism and endotoxin levels and correlated them with environmental factors. A sampling methodology for organism dense environments was developed and described.

    Pilot: Safety and Health of Immigrant Forest Workers on the Olympic Peninsula

    (NIOSH 2007-2009) Latino immigrant workers are increasingly finding employment as laborers in Pacific Northwest forests. This project provided a baseline understanding of the hazards faced by salvage cedar block cutters and the barriers they may face in addressing these occupational health and safety hazards. Employing community based participatory research methods, 13 key informant interviews were conducted with forest and community workers. The findings of this project, in brief, include:

    Pilot: Inhibition of Cholinesterase by Pharmacological and Dietary Agents

    (NIOSH 2007-2009) Organo-phosphorus pesticides (OPs) have widespread commercial application in the United States and worldwide, and their primary toxicological effect is associated with inhibition of cholinesterase (ChE). In Washington State, cholinesterase activity is measured in farmworkers expected to have high exposures to OPs, and when depression in cholinesterase activity is observed, remedial actions are undertaken to reduce exposures and protect worker health.

    Assessment of Job-related Exposures for Diarrheal Illness in Farmworker Families

    (NIOSH 2006-2011) This two-year exploratory project investigated a probable cause of Yakima County’s high rates of diarrheal illness – bacterial pathogens from livestock, taken home or in well water. It is hypothesized that occupational and environmental exposure pathways from livestock operations pose a significant risk of exposure to zoonotic bacterial contamination for farmworkers and their families. This study demonstrates the effectiveness of currently available methods for recovery of example bacteria from various surfaces. These methods are available to exposure science researchers.

    Neurobehavioral Assessment of Pesticide Exposure in Children

    (NIOSH 2006-2011) The objective of this project based at Oregon Health Sciences University was to identify and characterize OP exposure in the homes of pesticide mixer-loader applicators and to relate those exposures to neurobehavioral performance of children of pesticide applicators over two years in a longitudinal study that examinee neurodevelopmental changes.

    Nurse Murf/Enferma Elena

    (NIOSH 2006-2011) PNASH’s previous outreach director Helen Murphy, is known in Northwest agriculture as Nurse Murph or Enferma Elena. During her time at PNASH, she provided concise reviews on farm safety topics, sharing the state-of-the-science and injury and illness prevention strategies. Nurse Murf was a syndicated column, that shared medical and safety information for those that work in farming.

    Introducing a Cholinesterase Test Kit into Clinical Practice

    (NIOSH 2006-2011) This project evaluated the feasibility and functionality of integrating a portable testing kit, the Test-mate ChE test system, into the existing state-wide cholinesterase monitoring program administered by Washington State OSHA (known as WISHA). The aim was to enhance and simplify worker monitoring of pesticide overexposure for certain agricultural workers. We have shown the Test-mate™ kit to be an effective, cost-efficient test that can provide rapid results for workers – important if they are shown to have a ChE depression.

    Risk Factors for Cholinesterase Depression among Pesticide Handlers

    (NIOSH 2006-2011) This project worked in coordination with the Washington State Cholinesterase (ChE) Monitoring Program to identify the risk factors responsible for ChE depressions, including individual genetic susceptibility. 245 handlers were recruited over the course of this study in collaboration with occupational medicine clinics in agricultural regions of Washington state. A participant's risk of ChE depression is evaluated with respect to workplace, behavioral, and genetic characteristics (paraoxonase or PON1 status).

    Reality Tales: Storytelling to Translate Agricultural Health and Safety Research

    (NIOSH 2006-2011) ‘Reality tales,’ used Northwest workers’ injury experiences to teach critical prevention strategies. This project used the oral tradition of storytelling to translate health and safety research and education for agricultural producers and workers on two critical issues: ladder injuries and heat stress. The use of stories to communicate information, values, and lessons is an effective educational strategy.

    Health and Safety Awareness for Working Teens in Agriculture: Curriculum Evaluation Project

    (WA MAAF, NIOSH 2005-2008) This curriculum was developed to teach students in grades 9-12 introductory information about workplace health and safety in an agricultural work environment. The flexible five-unit curriculum addresses the unique job hazards found in an agriculture work setting. The curriculum is composed of interactive age appropriate lessons that help engage students in learning about topics such as:

    Idaho Partnership for Hispanic Health

    (NIH through the Idaho Mountain States Group 2005-2011) This partnership with the Idaho Mountain States Group addressed health disparities among Idaho Hispanics. We advised on community-based participatory research methodologies and provided research and health care expertise to help communities address safety and health interests. Community health workers are key in research and prevention, teaching about metabolic syndrome, and leading healthy eating and exercise programs.

    Pesticide Effects: Integration into Health Care Provider Curricula

    (NIOSH 2005-2011) Lead by Dr. Matthew Keifer, the goal of this project was to improve the training of health care providers in the diagnosis, care, and prevention of pesticide poisonings among those who work with pesticides. This project advanced the EPA’s goal to protect human health and address the intent of the Pesticide Registration and Improvement Act through improved poisoning reporting.

    Communication of Pesticide Health Risks - Producers, Workers and their Families

    (WA State MAAF 2005-2007) We provided the farming community with educational resources to promote the understanding of current science regarding the risks of OP pesticides. Our survey of producers and pesticide handlers in Washington state showed that respondents most often obtained their information on pesticides from product labels and dealers. They expressed interest in learning more about acute pesticide illness, cancer, ChE testing, and children's health. The survey also showed the preferred route for received information to be from conferences, recertification classes, or articles.

    Pesticide Exposure Pathways in Agricultural Communities

(EPA/NIEHS 2004-2014) Children of agricultural producers and workers can be exposed to pesticides and other agricultural chemicals if workplace chemicals are inadvertently brought into their homes. The purpose of this research is to prevent or reduce take home pesticide exposure among agricultural workers and their families in Northwest farming communities. This project will result in new methods for the characterization of the take home exposure pathway, and for interventions to reduce children’s exposures to pesticides.

    Publication List

    Communication of Pesticide Health Risks - Health Care Providers for Children of Agricultural Families

    (WA Sate MAAF 2004-2007) Through educational courses and workshops, we provided health care professionals with current scientific information regarding neurodevelopmental health risks for children with exposure to OP pesticides. This information was needed to understand the known, and sometimes uncertain, health risks to their pediatric patients. Based on our audience research, PNASH developed educational formats that meet health care professionals' need for current scientific information.

    An Incentive Intervention Program to Encourage Ergonomic Behavior in Latino Farm Workers

    (NIOSH 2004-2007) Eastern Washington University’s Center for Farm Health and Safety used videotaped Spanish language theater, hands-on demonstrations and practice, and photonovela handouts to train workers on sound ergonomic practices. More than 200 migrant and seasonal orchard and packinghouse workers and their supervisors were trained in Washington.

    Feasibility: Diagnosis of Mental Illness among Farmworkers with a Range of Literacy

    (NIOSH 2002-2003) With this project, PNASH developed an audiotape survey to assist in the diagnoses of farm worker patients with depression or other mental illnesses. This tool was developed for farmworkers who speak Spanish and have limited literacy skills. Our study found that the self-administered, tape recorded survey was reliable for diagnosis of mental illness. These audiotapes are available for use by health care providers.

    Publication(s) & Materials

    Feasibility: Assessment of Farmers' Exposure to Smoke from Agricultural Burning

    (NIOSH 2002-2004) The aim of this project was to investigate farm workers’ exposure to agricultural burning smoke and the resulting airborne pollutants and to assess the potential health hazards. Washington State University was our principal partner on the project. The results showed acute exposure at levels far higher than the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standard and the occupational standards for respiratory dust.

    Pilot: Evaluation of the WPS Train-the-Trainer Program

    (PNASH Pilot Project 2002-2003) PNASH was invited by the EPA and the Council of Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) to evaluate a Worker Protection Standard train-the-trainer model curriculum; to determine its feasibility for use throughout the country; to ensure that master trainers obtain the necessary skills, tools, and knowledge to train others; and to impart knowledge to trainers. PNASH developed the instruments used to evaluate the trainers, including those with low literacy.

    Feasibility: Wildland Firefighter Injuries in Idaho and Montana

    (NIOSH 2002-2004) In an effort to reduce wildland firefighter injury and illness, PNASH worked with the USDA Forest Service and Blackbull Wildfire Services to characterize injuries to wildland firefighters. The study collected injury data from major Northwestern fires in the 2000 season and analyzed the association between the type, severity and rate of injuries, the class of firefighter involved, and the time spent fighting the fire.

    Pilot Project: Finding Common Ground: Developing, Testing, and Evaluating a Narrative Based Model for Presenting Safety Information in Two Socially Diverse Farm Communities

    (PNASH Pilot, 2001-2004) This project was conducted through the EWU Center for Farm Safety and Health, which has compared formal and informal (through story telling) communication models used to promote safety. The two models have been tested with intergenerational family farmers and non-intergenerational farmers. This project identified the variables and allowed us to test the efficacy of incorporating informal discourse into formalized, farm safety intervention strategies.

    Pilot Project: Developing, Testing an Objective Tool for Measuring Postural and Vibrational Exposures During Forestry and Agricultural Work

(PNASH Pilot, 2001-2005) Forty-two noise exposures and 164 whole-body (WBV) and hand-arm (HAV) vibration exposures were collected from 43 forestry workers in six trades employed by two forestry companies. Data were collected on 10 days over 8 weeks during a various felling, logging, and log handling operations.

    Identification and Prevention of Injuries in Northwest Orchards

    (NIOSH/CDC, 2001-2007) This study found that ladders were the leading cause of orchard injuries, accounting for 30% of injury claims and costing $21.5 million over a six-year period. Ladder accidents were a consequence of unstable placement, over-extension of the third leg, slipping while descending, or being struck by a falling ladder. These hazards most commonly resulted in sprains and strains, eye injuries, and fractures and dislocations. Study results were drawn from comprehensive review of injury claims and personal interviews.

    Development of a Community Theater Troupe: Health and Farm Safety Training for Hispanic Agricultural Workers

    (NIOSH 2001-2004) The EWU Center for Farm Health and Safety developed a successful program that uses Spanish-language theater to provide farm workers with information on health hazards and prevention strategies. Based on data gathered from health and safety literature, key informant interviews, and a farm worker focus group, it was apparent that health and safety education must be sensitive to the literacy and language constraints of this worker population. Theater was selected as a method of providing farm health and safety education because it does not require a high level of literacy.

    Workplace Determinants of Take-Home Pesticide Exposure

    (NIOSH 2001-2006) This series of field-based studies has confirmed that agricultural pesticides are moving from the workplace to workers’ homes and that commuter vehicles play a role in this transmission. A major finding of the intervention development and evaluation is that vacuuming personal vehicles significantly reduces pesticide residues found in workers’ homes. PNASH will be widely promoting the practice of vehicle vacuuming and will be continuing to develop practical and effective workplace interventions designed to interrupt the take-home pathway.

    Hearing Conservation in Agricultural Industries

    (NIOSH/CDC, 2000-2002) This project evaluated noise exposures and hearing conservation practices in selected agricultural industries identified as having high numbers and/or incidence rates of workers' compensation claims for hearing loss. The proposed project augmented an ongoing, NIOSH-funded study (Daniell, PI; 1-R01-OH03894-01; "Epidemic occupational hearing loss in Washington State"). The PNASH support expanded the study to include agricultural industries with worksites beyond the planned study area.

    Optical Assessment of Dermal Exposure and Absorption

    (NIEHS, 2000-2004) The work of the PNASH Center has led to improved methods of dermal exposure assessment for agricultural workers and more accurate models for dermal absorption of pesticides. Our work with the direct-reading ATR-FTIR method shows promise as a rapid and inexpensive method for determining pesticide concentrations on the skin and uptake rates.

    Publication List

    Pilot Project: Literacy and Safety

    (PNASH Pilot, 2000-2001) Eastern Washington University Center for Farm Health and Safety researcher Mark Landa’s studied the links between literacy and safety among Hispanic farm workers. He measured the comprehensibility of graphics such as signs and symbols and text such as paragraphs and labels. His work indicates that less than half of the pesticide safety materials used in his study were understood by the subjects. The more text there was, the harder it was to understand. Education and literacy were only part of the capacity to learn.

    Prevention of Agricultural Injuries Resulting from Ladder Falls

    (NIOSH/CDC, 2000-2001) Researchers evaluated a Washington State Department of Labor and Industries’ accident prevention program implemented by their Yakima regional office in Kittitas, Grant, and Adams counties. The three-year injury prevention program aimed to reduce the frequency and cost of claims that are related to falls from ladders in the orchard and to eye injuries. Researchers conducted semi-structured interviews with farm workers who were injured on the job following a fall from a ladder and who filed a claim prior to the L&I implementation of the prevention program.

    Pilot Project: Human Exposure to OP Pesticides: The Role of Oxidative Stress

    (PNASH Pilot 2000-2001) Compelling evidence from whole-animal and tissue culture studies indicate that pesticides, especially organophosphate pesticides (OP), induce oxidative stress. While the cholinergic properties of OPs are well-established, our understanding of their oxidative stress properties (especially on humans) is limited.

    Pilot Project: Older Farmers: Factors Influencing Their Retirement Decisions

    (NIOSH/CDC, 2000-2001) Agriculture has been recognized as one of the most hazardous occupations in the United States. In an industry where a quarter of all farm operators are 65 years of age or older, age becomes a serious factor when considering potential risk for injuries. This project explored reasons influencing the retirement decisions of farmers within five counties in Eastern Washington. The research project investigated reasons why leaving farm, not participating in farm work, and transitioning farm ownership to others is so difficult for elder farmers.

    Identification of Injury Problem Areas

    (NIOSH/CDC, 1999-2001) The specific aims of this project were to estimate the one-year, cumulative incidence of work-related injury, and determine the type of medical treatment sought for agricultural-related injuries and the reporting of work-related injuries to the Washington state workers’ compensation system by Hispanic agricultural workers 18 years and older. A random digit dial survey was conducted of 1600 households in Sunnyside, Washington.

    Pilot Project: Agricultural Work and Injuries in Teenagers

    (NIOSH/CDC, 1999-2000) Direct assessment of the proportion of teenagers working in agriculture and the percent injured is sparsely reported in the literature and has not been performed in the Northwest United States. This project estimated the proportion of teenage children who work for pay in agriculturally related jobs in a rural town in Washington's Yakima Valley.

    Pilot Project: Salivary Biomonitoring for Organophosphorus Pesticide Exposure in Children

    (PNASH Pilot, 1999-2000) This project was designed to investigate the feasibility of measuring pesticide exposure using saliva in children. Conventional biomonitoring methods, such as blood and urine collections, have several, inherent practical limitations, which prohibit its application to large-scale studies or to studies involving sub-populations, such as children.  Saliva biomonitoring could provide a useful tool for researchers in determining not only the exposure to certain chemicals, such as pesticides, but the absorbed dose as well.

    Pilot Project: Farm Exposures to Deposited Arsenic and Lead on Vashon Island

    (PNASH Pilot 1999-2000) Vashon Island, Washington, is situated north of the former ASARCO smelter in Ruston/Tacoma. Prevailing winds carried arsenic and lead from the smelter to the Island. Surface soils are contaminated at levels well above background for both elements. Persons living on the island are subject to potentially elevated exposures to arsenic and lead. Persons at highest risk of exposure are likely to be those who have relatively intimate contact with soil. Those who eat locally grown crops are also at risk.

    Farm Safety for Teens

    (NIOSH/CDC, 1998-2000) The Skagit County Cooperative Extension office and their community sponsors have developed an annual Safety Workshop to train young workers on tractor and farm machine safety. They invited PNASH to evaluate its effectiveness. We developed a child-relevant safe behavior self-assessment tool; composed additional farm safety and environmental health curriculum to complement the Safety Workshop; assessed parental attitudes about farm health and safety; and evaluated the needs of underserved Hispanic youth in Skagit County.

    Vibration and Noise Exposure in Forestry Workers

    (NIOSH/CDC, 1998-2002) Workers in the forest industry are exposed to a number of sources of hand-arm and whole-body vibration, including a variety of hand tools and heavy equipment. Vibration exposure in forestry workers has been associated with negative health effects such as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) in several countries. The development of HAVS, or any of the ailments it encompasses, can force workers out of their employment by preventing them from performing their normal job tasks.

    Pilot Project: Methods for Accessing Pesticide/Nitrate Environmental Exposure Databases

    (PNASH Pilot, 1998-1999) Agricultural use of pesticides and fertilizers has grown dramatically in the last several years. Contamination of the hydrologic system by these chemicals is an increasing concern and much effort has been made to build databases containing measurements of these chemicals in drinking water sources. These geographically-referenced data (accessible by latitude/longitude coordinates of the target residence or facility) have yet to be used in epidemiologic studies of health outcomes.

    Pilot Project: Farm Families and the Employment, Training, and Supervision of Children

    (PNASH Pilot, 1998-1999) This project furthered agricultural health and safety research on children by looking at parents’ attitudes towards farm safety and children’s labor. It considered how these attitudes and characteristics of farm operation affect the use of children’s labor as well as the quality of safety-related training and supervision received by children. Data were collected through interviews with twenty-five farm families in two counties in eastern Washington.

    A Hazard Evaluation in the Apple Warehouse Industry

    (NIOSH/CDC, 1997-2000) During the past decade, the apple warehouse industry in Washington state has grown considerably, both in production and technology. Up to 15,000 employees work in warehouses with a large percentage of women. Approximately two-thirds of these workers are of Mexican descent. Both management and labor have identified health and safety concerns in the industry, such as musculoskeletal diseases, carbon monoxide poisoning, and slips and falls.

    Pilot Project: Validation of Sampling and Analytic Techniques for Fungi and Bacteria in Agricultural Organic Dust Exposure

    (NIOSH/CDC, 1997-2000) The main goal of this project was to develop a validated questionnaire for the detection of asthma in community-based studies of Spanish-speaking Mexican populations in Washington State. A secondary goal was to collect pilot prevalence data on asthma in the Yakima Valley Hispanic population. Asthma, now recognized as one of the most common occupational lung diseases, is associated with many differing agricultural exposures. The Spanish-speaking migrant and seasonal farm worker population represents a large percentage of Region X and the U.S.

    Purse Seiner Survey

    (NIOSH/CDC, 1997-2000) The objectives of this cross-sectional questionnaire study were to: estimate the frequency of injuries among Washington state purse seiners; identify major injury patterns among seiners; characterize the most hazardous tasks and potential methods for intervention among the purse seiner fleet.

    Self-reporting and self-mailing questionnaires were distributed to the purse seiner fleet during the fishing season in southeast Alaska. The vast majority of these boats are owned and operated by Washington state residents.

    Animal Handling and Safety: Developing a Marker for Program Evaluation

    (NIOSH/CDC, 1997-2000) The Magic Valley SAFE KIDS Coalition, based in Twin Falls, Idaho, collaborated with Center investigators to evaluate the effectiveness of the animal handling component of their Farm Safety Day Camps. The project identified observable and measurable safe animal handling behavior, tested the pilot evaluation tool for reliability, and refined the tool.

    Respiratory Health in the Seafood Processing Industry

    (NIOSH/CDC 1996-2001) Aerosolized crab antigens are suspected etiologic agents for asthma among crab processing workers. The goal of this study was to characterize crab antigen levels in processing facilities in relative to the prevalence of respiratory symptoms. Industry and labor representatives in the Northwest have identified respiratory illness, specifically asthma, among those who process crab. In addition, industry representatives have noted difficulty in determining which processing areas may be associated with the greatest risk.

    Use of Theater to Introduce Health and Safety Information in Hispanic Communities

    (NIOSH/CDC, 1996-2001) The EWU Center for Farm Health and Safety developed a successful program that uses Spanish-language theater to provide farm workers with information on health hazards and prevention strategies. Based on data gathered from health and safety literature, key informant interviews, and a farm worker focus group, it was apparent that health and safety education must be sensitive to the literacy and language constraints of this worker population.

    Occupational Skin Disorders in Region X Farming, Fishing, and Forestry

    (NIOSH/CDC, 1996-2002) The objectives of this project were to: quantify the impact of dermatitis on the farming and forestry work force; characterize the most important causes; and develop interventions to control the major causes of farming and forestry workplace dermatitis in Region X. This project also explored pre-collected data systems for use in characterizing dermatitis in commercial fishing.

    Agricultural Safety and Health Decision-Making in Farming Families

    (NIOSH/CDC, 1996-2001) This project explored the way specific demographics, context, process, and outcome factors influence farm health and safety decisions made by women who are farmers, farm wives, or partners. The intervention program designed for women and their farm partners was based on the results of this project’s initial research. It included safety farm assessment training for farm women and an evaluation component to measure the impact of the training and its effectiveness.

    Pilot Application of Cholinesterase Monitoring of Pesticide Applicators in Washington State

    (NIOSH/CDC, 1996-2001) This study evaluated the accuracy of cholinesterase determinations performed on the EQM Testmate Kit??? in field conditions as compared to those conducted in a laboratory. It also examined whether a field-based kit provides advantages in promptness of worker removal. Seventy-five orchard workers with regular exposure to Guthion, Diazinon, and several other organophosphate and N-methyl carbamate pesticides had samples of their blood and urine taken during the growing season. Samples were also obtained from five unexposed workers.

    Icon-Based Occupational History

    (NIOSH/CDC, 1995-1998) This project sought to expand and validate an icon based occupational history questionnaire for use with Hispanic migrant and seasonal farm workers. The questionnaire was specially designed to obtain lifetime work histories from illiterate or semiliterate subject for use in long-term exposure studies and has been well-received by both interviewers and subjects. It was adapted for use in leukemia/brain cancer studies in Costa Rica and is available for use to other researchers.

    Publication List

    Validation of an Asthma Questionnaire in Spanish

    (PNASH Pilot, 1995-2000) Researchers characterized the relationships between various bioaerosol-related assays during composting operations using agricultural wastes. The assays included were standard microbiological assays (high and low temperature incubation for fungi and bacteria) on samples taken on filter cassettes, 1-3 b d glucan, possibly 1-6 b d glucan, and an extracellular polysacharride (EPS) specifically associated with aspergillus and penicillium species.

    Washington State Cholinesterase Monitoring Rule Evaluation: Medical Monitoring Education, Informed Consent for Handlers

    (NIOSH/CDC, 1995-2000) In 2004, the state of Washington began requiring the medical monitoring of farm workers who work frequently with high toxicity pesticides. Washington follows only California in adopting this type of policy, presenting the opportunity for creating a model program. PNASH helped the state build the program by ensuring that there are well-developed and evaluated training programs for the medical providers who will work with employees and employers, and informed consent procedures for participating workers, many with low literacy.

    Neurological Effects of Organophosphorus Insecticides in Farmworkers

    (NIOSH/CDC, 1993-2000) The overall goal of this study was to determine whether farm workers who thin fruit trees exhibit neurological changes following one season of exposure to low levels of organophosphorus insecticides compared to workers who were not exposed. Data were collected 97 in follow-up testing. A wide ranging number of tests, including peripheral and central nervous system function, were applied to both groups. Cholinesterase was measured both after the exposure season and after the period of non-exposure.

    Children's Pesticide Exposure

    (NIOSH/CDC, 1991-2002) This investigation focused on the measurement of pesticide exposures in children of agricultural producers and farm workers and an analysis of risks associated with such exposures. It also explored new exposure assessment methods for evaluating exposure and risk in these populations. The project demonstrated that soil and house dust concentrations in and around the homes of agricultural families are significantly higher than those found for reference families in the same community, and that such patterns continue over several years.

    Children's Exposure to Lead and Arsenic in Orchard Soils

    (NIOSH/CDC, 1989-2002) Lead arsenate was used in large quantities in orchards in Washington State for about four decades. Although lead arsenate is no longer used in the fruit industry, residual contamination is evident in orchard soils. Several potential routes of exposure to children exist. Adult workers in the orchards may inadvertently transport soil and dust to their homes or children residing in close proximity may play in the orchards. Orchard land may also be subdivided and converted to residential property.

    Additional Respiratory Health Publications

    Burgess JL, Morrissey B, Keifer M, Robertson WO. Fumigant-related illnesses: Washington States’s five-year experience. Journal of Toxicology Clinical Toxicology. 2000;38:7-14.PUBMED Abstract

    Burgess JL, Brodkin CA, Daniell WE, Pappas GP, Keifer M, Stover BD, Edland SD, Barnhart S. Longitudinal decline in measured firefighter single-breath diffusing capacity of carbon monoxide values. A respiratory surveillance dilemma. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1999;159(1):119-24.

    Additional Research & Health Care Tools Publications

    Armstrong J, Fitzpatrick C, Loftus C, Yost M, Tchong-French M, Karr C. Development of a unique multi-contaminant air sampling device for a childhood asthma cohort in an agricultural environment. Enriron Sci Processes Impacts. 2013 Jul. Advanced Release. DOI: 10.1039/c3em00330b.

    Keifer M, Gasperini F, Robson M. Pesticides and other chemicals: minimizing worker exposure. J Agromedicine. 2010 Jul;15(3):264-74.

    Additional Chemical Exposure Publications

    Hofmann J, Guardado J, Keifer M, Wesseling C. Mortality among a cohort of banana plantation workers in Costa Rica. Int J Occup Environ Health. 2006 Oct-Dec;12(4):321-8. PMID: 17168219.

    Rodriguez T, Younglove L, Lu C, Funez A, Weppner S, Barr DB, Fenske RA. Biological monitoring of pesticide exposures among applicators and their children in Nicaragua. Int J Occup Environ Health. 2006 Oct-Dec;12(4):312-20. PMID: 17168218.