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Community-based intervention to reduce pesticide exposure to farmworkers and potential take-home exposure to their families

Abstract

The US EPA Worker Protection Standard requires pesticide safety training for farmworkers. Combined with re-entry intervals, these regulations are designed to reduce pesticide exposure. Little research has been conducted on whether additional steps may reduce farmworker exposure and the potential for take-home exposure to their families. We conducted an intervention with 44 strawberry harvesters (15 control and 29 intervention group members) to determine whether education, encouragement of handwashing, and the use of gloves and removable coveralls reduced exposure. Post-intervention, we collected foliage and urine samples, as well as hand rinse, lower-leg skin patch, and clothing patch samples. Post-intervention loading of malathion on hands was lower among workers who wore gloves compared to those who did not (median=8.2 vs. 777.2 μg per pair, respectively (P<0.001)); similarly, median MDA levels in urine were lower among workers who wore gloves (45.3 vs. 131.2 μg/g creatinine, P<0.05). Malathion was detected on clothing (median=0.13 μg/cm2), but not on skin. Workers who ate strawberries had higher malathion dicarboxylic acid levels in urine (median=114.5 vs. 39.4 μg/g creatinine, P<0.01). These findings suggest that wearing gloves reduces pesticide exposure to workers contacting strawberry foliage containing dislodgeable residues. Additionally, wearing gloves and removing work clothes before returning home could reduce transport of pesticides to worker homes. Behavioral interventions are needed to reduce consumption of strawberries in the field.

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Acknowledgements

This research was funded by NIEHS CBPR Grant RO1ES11352. Additional support was provided by US EPA Grant RD 83171001 and NIEHS Grant PO1 ES009605. Analysis for hand rinse, clothing patch, and DFR samples was supported by NIOSH. Additional support for environmental sample collection analysis and M Boeniger's time was provided by NIOSH. The contents of this paper are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies. The authors declare they have no competing financial interests. We thank the field staff and the farmworkers and farmers who participated in this study for their valuable time and commitment. We also thank Natividad Medical Center for hosting our field office in Salinas, CA. Finally, we thank J Ferber and R Krieger for their technical assistance.

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Correspondence to Asa Bradman.

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Bradman, A., Salvatore, A., Boeniger, M. et al. Community-based intervention to reduce pesticide exposure to farmworkers and potential take-home exposure to their families. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 19, 79–89 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/jes.2008.18

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