Student Research: Chris Ballew
Agricultural workers in the state of Washington must deal with numerous hazards in their daily work ranging from threats of falling off of ladders to turning over tractors. While these incidents are usually one-time accidents, many field workers are exposed daily to numerous types of pesticides. These pesticides, particularly organophosphorus pesticides, are known to cause toxic and neurological effects on the body, given either acute or chronic exposure. This study is concerned with chronic exposure to low doses of organophosphorus pesticides to the children of agricultural workers. When the workers leave their jobs for the day, they deposit pesticides from their shoes and clothing into their vehicles and homes. This study addresses the issue of workers who bring pesticide residue into their vehicles and homes that can affect not only themselves but also their families.
Specifically, a group of cherry pickers in eastern Washington State participated in a commute-vehicle vacuuming intervention in an attempt to determine if vehicle vacuuming reduced the amount of organophosphorus pesticides in their vehicles and homes. One group of subjects placed into a control group while the subjects who vacuumed were defined as the intervention group. Subjects were asked to vacuum their vehicles at least once per week for approximately six weeks. After the vacuuming period ended, dust samples were collected in both the homes and vehicles of all subjects. The samples were then analyzed for the three organophosphorus pesticides: azinphosmethyl, phosmet, and chlorpyrifos. Comparison of the geometric mean pesticide loadings between subjects who vacuumed and those who did not vacuum were made using an ANCOVA test adjusting for subject pesticide exposure opportunity. The comparisons showed lower pesticide loadings for both the house and vehicle vacuum groups than the house and vehicle non-vacuum groups for all three pesticides. This study showed that the vacuum intervention was successful with a study using a small sample size. The results encourage further use of the vacuum intervention in larger scale studies.