NIOSH: Data Underestimate Illnesses, Injuries Caused by Pesticides Exposure
A new NIOSH report on illnesses and injuries from occupational exposure to conventional pesticides states that the data provided, which cover the years 2007–2011, are “likely to be underestimates of the actual magnitude” of pesticide-related illness and injury. According to NIOSH, the estimates are likely low because many workers with pesticide-related illness or injury do not seek medical care or contact the appropriate authorities. Workers who do seek medical care may receive an inaccurate diagnosis because some healthcare professionals are not familiar with the recognition and management of pesticide-related illnesses. NIOSH notes that inaccurate estimates of the agricultural industry population may further affect the data due to the transient employment of seasonal and migrant farmworkers, many of whom are difficult to count.
NIOSH found that the rates of pesticide-related illness and injury among agricultural industry workers were 37 times greater than those for nonagricultural workers. Most of the 2,606 cases of acute occupational pesticide-related illness and injury in 2007–2011 involved exposure to insecticides or herbicides. Pyrethroids, organophosphates, sulfur compounds, and pyrethrins were the chemical classes most often involved among those exposed to insecticides. Specific herbicides most commonly involved with occupational exposures were glyphosate and the dipyridyls paraquat and diquat. During 2007–2011, two affected workers died.
The data are from the Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risks (SENSOR)-Pesticides program, which builds and maintains occupational illness and injury surveillance capacity within state health departments.
For more information, see the NIOSH report.