Environment, Health & Safety, Pesticides, Research and Studies

Acute Pesticide Illnesses Associated with Off-Target Pesticide Drift from Agricultural Applications — 11 States, 1998–2006

From EHP03.NIEHS.NIH.gov, Environmental Health Perspectives, Soo-Jeong Lee, Louise Mehler, John Beckman, Brienne Diebolt-Brown, Joanne Prado, Michelle Lackovic, Justin Waltz, Prakash Mulay, Abby Schwartz, Yvette Mitchell, Stephanie Moraga-McHaley, Rita Gergely, and Geoffrey M. Calvert, 6 Jun 2011.

The authors found that 53 percent of the 2,945 pesticide poisoning cases associated with drift in 11 states during 1996-2008 involved non-occupational exposures, however.

Abstract

Background: Pesticides are widely used in agriculture and off-target pesticide drift results in exposures to workers and the public.

Objective: Estimate the incidence of acute illnesses from pesticide drift from outdoor agricultural applications, and describe drift exposure and illness characteristics.

Methods: Data were obtained from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risks-Pesticides Program and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Drift included off-target movement of pesticide spray, volatiles, and contaminated dust. Acute illness cases were characterized by demographics, pesticide and application variables, health effects, and contributing factors.

Results: During 1998–2006, 2,945 cases associated with agricultural pesticide drift were identified from 11 states. Forty-seven percent had exposures at work, 92% experienced low severity illness, and 14% were children (<15 years). The annual incidence ranged from 1.39 to 5.32 per million persons over the 9-year period. The overall incidence (in million person-years) was 114.3 for agricultural workers, 0.79 for other workers, 1.56 for nonoccupational cases, and 42.2 for residents in 5 agriculture-intensive counties in California. Soil applications with fumigants were responsible for the largest proportion (45%) of cases. Aerial applications accounted for 24% of cases. Common factors contributing to drift cases included weather conditions, improper seal of the fumigation site, and applicator carelessness near non-target areas.

Conclusions: Agricultural workers and residents in agricultural regions were found to have the highest rate of pesticide poisoning from drift exposure, and soil fumigations were a major hazard causing large drift incidents. These findings highlight areas where interventions to reduce off-target drift could be focused.

Source: EHP03.NIEHS.NIH.gov, Environmental Health Perspectives, “Acute Pesticide Illnesses Associated with Off-Target Pesticide Drift from Agricultural Applications — 11 States, 1998–2006” Soo-Jeong Lee, Louise Mehler, John Beckman, Brienne Diebolt-Brown, Joanne Prado, Michelle Lackovic, Justin Waltz, Prakash Mulay, Abby Schwartz, Yvette Mitchell, Stephanie Moraga-McHaley, Rita Gergely, Geoffrey M. Calvert, 6 Jun 2011.

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