Pesticides and Health

Applicator sprays equipmentWhat is pesticide exposure?

Pesticides are substances designed to prevent, destroy, repel or mitigate pests. As of 2012, approximately 899 million pounds of conventional pesticides (e.g. insecticides, rodenticides, fungicides, herbicides, and fumigants) were used in United States agriculture (EPA 2017). 

What are potential adverse health effects of pesticide exposure?

Between 2007 and 2011, the rate of acute illness and injury among agricultural workers (18.6/1000,000) was estimated to be 37 times greater than the rate for nonagricultural workers (0.5/100,000) (Calvert et al. 2016). Skin absorption, inhalation, and ingestion are key routes of exposure to consider for occupational and residential settings. PNASH works to address pesticide exposure for those who are most vulnerable:

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

Overall, improved products, application practices, and case reporting have helped, but common illnesses and injuries still occur. Some of these common exposures happen through the off-target movement of pesticides (a.k.a. drift) 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 Resources

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Fluorescent Tracer Manual

This guide provides pesticide safety educators with hands-on demonstrations using the fluorescent tracer.

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Manual del Marcador Fluorescente

Este manual provee demostraciones y actividades para los educadores de seguridad con los pesticidas.

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EPA video de seguridad de pesticidas

Este video, financiado en parte por PNASH, provee información sobre la seguridad de los pesticidas específicamente para los trabajadores agrícolas. 

PNASH Research

Pesticide Exposures and Risk Perceptions among Male and Female Latinx Farmers in Idaho

PNASH Pilot Project 2021-2022 | Carly Hyland

Previous studies have documented high levels of pesticide exposure among Latinx farmworkers, however investigations to date have focused almost exclusively on men, despite female farmworkers representing an increasing proportion of the agricultural workforce in the United States and worldwide. Data are needed examining both pesticide exposure levels and risk perceptions among male and female farmworkers in order to develop evidence-based interventions aimed at reducing pesticide exposure.

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

NIOSH 2014-2017 | Butch de Castro, PhD, MSN, MPH

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.

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Measurement of Farmworker OP Exposure through Protein Adducts

NIOSH and WA State MAAF 2011-2016 | Chris Simpson, PhD, MSc

This project developed an assay to improve understanding of worker exposures to a wide range of organophosphate (OP) pesticides and advanced the method for potential use in field and clinic settings, providing rapid feedback to workers, clinicians, and physicians.

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