Engineering Solutions to Reduce Pesticide Exposure and Waste on Northwest Fruit Farms

The overall objectives of this project are to evaluate emerging pesticide application technologies and educational programming as interventions for breaking the pesticide exposure pathway on Northwest fruit farming systems. Labor-intensive fruit commodities put farmworkers and their families at disproportionate risk of pesticide-related illness via pesticide handling, drift, or the take-home exposure pathways. Due to ongoing concerns about the burden of occupationally related pesticide illnesses, the Washington State Legislature formed a five-year committee to develop recommendations for improving pesticide application safety and incentives for replacing old sprayer technologies with more adapting technologies. To address needs related to labor shortages and farm operation safety, growers are accelerating the implementation of automation technologies into their field operations.

Project aims are to:

  1. characterize adoption of emerging application technologies among Northwest fruit growers and impacts on occupational safety and health;  

  1. generate a database of source and receptor terms for spray attributes of three emerging technologies as engineering controls to minimize pesticide exposure; and,

  1. evaluate educational programming for worker skills, knowledge, and abilities related to safe operation of emerging spray technologies.

This project leverages a broad network of Northwest partnerships to inform assessments about current and planned uses for precision agriculture and corresponding impacts on pesticide safety and health. Members of our team work closely with equipment manufacturers, regulatory agency liaisons, and commodity specific grower organizations on research and extension projects in Washington and Oregon. This project contributes to the NIOSH Future of Work initiative by evaluating the risk-benefit tradeoffs of emerging technology in the workplace and by developing guidance for safe interactions with humans.

Principal Investigators: Edward Kasner, Assistant Teaching Professor, University of Washington, and Lav Khot, Associate Professor, Washington State University.

NIOSH Funding Period 2022-2027