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. 

PNASH Research

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

NIOSH 2014-2017 | Butch de Castro,

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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Using IPM to Reduce Pyrethroid Pesticide Exposures in Dairy Workers

NIOSH 2011-2016 | Michael Yost, PhD, MS

This project partners with Washington State University to reduce pesticide use in dairy operations by introducing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices in these workplaces. We are working with a network of participants to develop a robust and practical IPM program that provides evidence for cost-effective interventions that can reduce pesticide usage in these farm operations.

Learn more