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Lifetime organophosphorous insecticide use among private pesticide applicators in the Agricultural Health Study


Organophosphorous insecticides (OPs) are the most commonly used insecticides in US agriculture, but little information is available regarding specific OP use by individual farmers. We describe OP use for licensed private pesticide applicators from Iowa and North Carolina in the Agricultural Health Study (AHS) using lifetime pesticide use data from 701 randomly selected male participants collected at three time periods. Of 27 OPs studied, 20 were used by >1%. Overall, 95% had ever applied at least one OP. The median number of different OPs used was 4 (maximum=13). Malathion was the most commonly used OP (74%) followed by chlorpyrifos (54%). OP use declined over time. At the first interview (1993–1997), 68% of participants had applied OPs in the past year; by the last interview (2005–2007), only 42% had. Similarly, median annual application days of OPs declined from 13.5 to 6 days. Although OP use was common, the specific OPs used varied by state, time period, and individual. Much of the variability in OP use was associated with the choice of OP, rather than the frequency or duration of application. Information on farmers’ OP use enhances our ability to characterize and understand the potential health effects of multiple OP exposures.

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We thank Dr. Joe Coble for his efforts to create the AHS pesticide use data base. This work was supported by the intramural research program of the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (Z01-ES049030), National Cancer Institute (Z01-CP010119), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The United States Environmental Protection Agency through its Office of Research and Development collaborated in the research described here; it has been subjected to Agency review and approved for publication.


The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and Health Canada.

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Correspondence to Jane A Hoppin.

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Supplementary Information accompanies the paper on the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology website

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Hoppin, J., Long, S., Umbach, D. et al. Lifetime organophosphorous insecticide use among private pesticide applicators in the Agricultural Health Study. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 22, 584–592 (2012).

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  • pesticide use
  • farming
  • organophosphorous insecticide

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