Prevention of Occupational Exposure to Pesticide Drift

Principal Investigator: Richard Fenske, PhD, MPH
Professor, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences
University of Washington

NIOSH 2016-2021

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 will work with Washington State Department of Health and Washington State University 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. Study findings will be used to provide new user-friendly tools and trainings to predict drift event-prone weather conditions.

First, we will determine the probability of drift events due to environmental conditions during spraying by: (1) estimating drift-related weather conditions at the time and location of all documented drift events in Washington State between 2000 and 2015, and (2) conducting a case-crossover study of weather conditions on drift event days vs. non-drift event days to build a ‘drift determinants’ model.

Second, we will explore 'wind ramping' as a determinant of drift by: (1) investigating the impact of distance and terrain on AgWeatherNet-based meteorological measurements at representative sites in the Yakima Valley and (2) modeling wind ramping during field sampling of pesticide drift. ‘Wind ramping’ is a novel metric being developed for wind power forecasting and can be described as large shifts in wind speed or direction at a given location in a short period of time.

Third, we will translate study findings into exposure prevention tools for agricultural producers and workers by providing new training modules for regional “Drift Management Best Practices” courses, creating a user-friendly method for epidemiologic investigators to integrate weather conditions into drift event documentation, and developing a system to alert pesticide applicators about drift event-prone weather conditions. This work will result in the novel integration of environmental and health data systems and holds the potential to demonstrably reduce occupational illness due to pesticide drift.

Specific Aims

Aim 1. Determine the probability of drift events due to environmental conditions during spraying.

Aim 2. Explore wind ramping as a determinant of drift.

Aim 3. Translate findings into exposure prevention tools for agricultural producers and workers.

Partners and Advisories
Washington State Department of Health

Washington State University, AgWeatherNet Program


Prado J. B., Mulay P. R., Kasner E. J., Bojes H. K., Calvert G. M. Acute Pesticide-Related Illness Among Farmworkers: Barriers to Reporting to Public Health Authorities. J of Agromedicine. 2017;22(4) 395-405. doi: 10.1080/1059924X.2017.1353936. Review. PubMed PMID: 28762882; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5846675.

Kasner E. J. On Preventing Farmworker Exposure to Pesticide Drift in Washington Orchards. 2017 PhD Dissertation. Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington.

Kasner E. J., Fenske R. A, Galvin K., Yost M., Palmández P. Review of Agricultural Spray Notification Systems. 2016 Technical Report. Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center, University of Washington. 

Reducing Agricultural Worker Risk through New and Emerging Technologies

Notification of Pesticide Applications to Minimize Workplace Exposures