Safety gaps found after pesticide review

by Rob Payne
The review found that skin contact was the most common form of pesticide exposure. Credit: Mikael Altemark

A review of pesticide use in workplaces recommends increased training, better safety compliance and replacement of the most hazardous pesticides to improve worker safety.

The collaboration involved The University of Western Australia, Monash University and the University of Melbourne and looked at over 80 studies on the health effects of pesticide exposure, pesticide-related tasks, factors affecting absorption and use of personal protective equipment.

While inhalation is often viewed by the public as the principle route of pesticide exposure, the review found that skin contact was most common, with respiratory entry limited, likely due to the low vapour pressures of many pesticides.

This misconception has shed light on several gaps in safety.

Professor Lin Fritschi (now at Curtin University) says that while proper equipment has been shown to reduce pesticide exposure, workers' use of clothing providing basic skin covering when applying chemicals was shown to be far from ideal.

"In Australia, one likely reason for the lack of personal protective equipment worn by workers is thermal comfort," she says.

"As the protection afforded by protective clothing increases, the breathability of the fabric is generally decreased, meaning it is less comfortable to wear in warm conditions.

"So, although pesticide workers may appreciate the protective benefits, they may avoid using because of physical discomfort."

Prof Fritschi says and protective requirements vary between pesticide-intensive occupations, which include agricultural workers, pest controllers, parks and gardens workers and foresters.

"Each of these has a distinctive profile due to differences in the context and purpose of pesticide use," she says.

"For example, pest control operators—while a small percentage of the pesticide-exposed workforce—have a very different exposure pattern to farm workers, as they contend with the effects of working in built environments and applying pesticides indoors, including restricted spaces."

Highest exposure to pesticides was found to occur not during application, but during the mixing and loading stage, when dealt with concentrated product and higher risks of spillage.

The research highlights other exposure factors including hot conditions when increased skin blood flow leads to increased circulation of pesticides within the body.

The research also notes that the active ingredient of sunscreen may promote penetration of agents through the skin, and that synthetic materials can offer between four and seven times more protection than cotton.

Prof Fritschi says the task now is to investigate how to make workplace training and awareness more effective.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Outdoor workers face increased cancer risk

Feb 05, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Perth researchers have completed a comprehensive study into Australian workers and their exposure to ultraviolet radiation - a known human carcinogen.

Recommended for you

New toilets for India's poor, crime-hit village

21 hours ago

More than 100 new toilets were unveiled Sunday in a poverty-stricken and scandal-hit village in northern India, where fearful and vulnerable women have long been forced to defecate in the open.

Can YouTube save your life?

Aug 29, 2014

Only a handful of CPR and basic life support (BLS) videos available on YouTube provide instructions which are consistent with recent health guidelines, according to a new study published in Emergency Medicine Australasia, the jo ...

Doctors frequently experience ethical dilemmas

Aug 29, 2014

(HealthDay)—For physicians trying to balance various financial and time pressures, ethical dilemmas are common, according to an article published Aug. 7 in Medical Economics.

AMGA: Physician turnover still high in 2013

Aug 29, 2014

(HealthDay)—For the second year running, physician turnover remains at the highest rate since 2005, according to a report published by the American Medical Group Association (AMGA).

Obese or overweight teens more likely to become smokers

Aug 29, 2014

A study examining whether overweight or obese teens are at higher risk for substance abuse finds both good and bad news: weight status has no correlation with alcohol or marijuana use but is linked to regular ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

stuartgweston
not rated yet Jul 28, 2014
Generally these pesticides are known to carry unhealthy stuff that can affect human beings. Therefore according to me its always better to avoid the usage of such materials in your surroundings. If you wish to know more you can check http://www.positivepest.net