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

Image of video thumbnail

EPA Pesticide Safety video

This video, funded by in part by PNASH, discusses pesticide safety specifically for ag workers and includes topics such as residues, hazards,  drift, REI, and more. 

Tractor spraying on a field

National Ag Safety Database (NASD)

An online database of resources for agricultural safety and injury prevention maintained by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Image of child

Understanding Pediatric Outcomes from Pesticides and Nitrates

This is a free CME online course offered through the Northwest Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSU). 

Sprayer with pesticide label

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

This is a user friendly, free, mobile application that allows for searching, accessing, and downloading pesticide labels approved for use in Washington.

Hand holding phone

PestiSeguro™/PestiSafe™

A premium mobile application developed by the University of Washington that delivers detailed pesticide safety information in both Spanish and English.

Image of Pesticide warning sign

Practical Solutions for Pesticide Safety: Handheld Equipment

Online solutions for applicators using handheld equipment developed in collaboration with industry partners in nurseries, greenhouses, & forestry. 

PNASH Research

Reducing Agricultural Worker Risks through New and Emerging Technologies

NIOSH 2011-2016 | Richard Fenske, PhD, MPH

This project evaluated interventions designed to reduce worker exposure and risk during pesticide applications in tree fruit. Bringing together land grant universities, industry, producers, and workers, this work sought to ensure that the decision process used for adopting new pesticide products and new spray technology development includes worker health and safety.

Learn more
Pesticide Safety in Tree Fruit: Translating Research, Overcoming Barriers

NIOSH 2011-2016 | Kit Galvin, MS, CIH and Nadine Lehrer, PhD

This project worked toward minimizing agricultural worker and family pesticide exposure in the tree fruit industry by translating and disseminating research results and overcoming barriers to pesticide safety practices, particularly those that affect the large Hispanic workforce in the Pacific Northwest.

Learn more
Pilot: GRAS2P Food Safety Video

PNASH Pilot Project 2013-2015 | Alexandra Lewis-Lorenz, PhD, MA

This video project integrates 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 ensure effective food safety practices.

Learn more