Survey of Research on the Impacts of Pesticides on Agricultural Workers and the Rural Environment

Working Papers

Published By

California Institute for Rural Studies, Davis CA, Series title: Working paper / Working Group on Farm Labor and Rural Poverty , Vol. 2, page(s): 40


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Most pesticide illnesses go untreated. Many are nor serious enough to require medical attention, others are not treated because agricultural workers lack access to health care. Additional analysis of physical report of occupational injuries and illnesses in California agriculture continues to rise. Only a fraction of these reports involve pesticides. Surveys of field workers indicate that there are many more pesticide illnesses than are reported by physicians. Most survey methods can report symptoms, but cannot confirm the incidence of illness. Some studies have found seasonal depression in the blood cholinesterase of field workers, but the physiological significance of such depression is uncertain.

Clinical tests and specific antidotes are needed to treat illnesses induced by pesticides other than cholinesterase inhibitors. The clinical significance of pesticide residues in human fluids and tissue has yet to be defined. Research is needed to standardize cholinesterase testing, and to find the means to assay the enzyme independent of its activity, so that baseline tests will not be needed. Research is needed on the neurotoxic effects of organophosphate insecticides, including the use of psychological tests and evaluation with EMG and EEG.

Field workers reentry standards are based on studies of foliar induced, and extrapolation forma few evaluation of human health effects. Research is needed to see if current standards are adequate, and to evaluate the risk assessment models used in setting reentry intervals. More research is needed to develop methods and equipment which better protect the pesticide applicator.

There are few studies which suggests that pesticides cause adverse long-term health effects in human populations, including cancer and birth defects. Such research is fraught with methodological difficulties. Research is needed to evaluate the new California program which is attempting to close the date gap of tests involving experimental animals.

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