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

Pesticide handler on tractor

¡Etiquetas de pesticidas, ahora!™/Pesticide Labels, Now!™

Esta aplicación bilingüe (versión beta) ya está disponible para productores de manzano y peral en el estado de Washington.

Pesticide handler on tractor

¡Etiquetas de pesticidas, ahora!™/Pesticide Labels, Now!™

Bilingual mobile app for apple and pear production in Washington state

image of worker mixing pesticides

Practical Solutions for Pesticide Safety

This webpage provides a collection of solutions and tools developed and tested in partnership with farmers, educators, and researchers in Washington State. 

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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

Prevention of Occupational Exposure to Pesticide Drift

NIOSH 2016-2022 | Richard Fenske, Ph.D, MPH and Edward Kasner, Ph.D, MPH

Pesticide drift is a long-standing issue in the Pacific Northwest, especially for the tree fruit industry and workforce. This project aims to understand the mechanisms of pesticide drift exposure among agricultural workers and prevent such exposures in the future. To accomplish this, we are working with the Washington State Department of Health and Washington State University (WSU) AgWeatherNet to determine the probability of drift events due to environmental conditions during spraying, develop a predictive model, and conduct field studies to validate our model.

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Practical Solutions for Pesticide Safety

NIOSH 2016-2022 | Kit Galvin, MPH, CIH

The Practical Solutions for Pesticide Safety (PSPS) guide is a collection of over 30 solutions and ideas identified on farms. Each solution sheet is available in English and Spanish.

PNASH works with farmers, educators, and researchers across the Northwest to test and develop solutions originally developed by growers for themselves. These practical solutions are then shared back to the industry through an online platform.

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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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