Evaluating Pesticide Risk for Orchard Sprayers

Jenn Hoskins
14th April, 2024

Evaluating Pesticide Risk for Orchard Sprayers

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In Chinese orchards, protective clothing, especially gloves, significantly reduces skin contact with pesticides
  • The type of orchard (apple or citrus) has little effect on pesticide exposure, except on wipes and faces
  • Statistical models used in the study accurately estimate pesticide exposure, aiding future health risk assessments
Occupational exposure to pesticides is a significant health concern, particularly for individuals who apply these chemicals in agricultural settings. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs in China has recently conducted a study[1] to better understand the risks faced by applicators in orchards across different climatic regions. The research aimed to quantify the levels of pesticides that come into contact with the skin and are inhaled during the spraying process, and to assess the effectiveness of protective clothing. The study focused on the use of a stretcher-mounted sprayer, a common tool in orchard pesticide application. Researchers collected data on the amount of pesticide found on various parts of the applicators' bodies, known as unit exposure (UE). Gloves and shins were identified as the areas with the highest levels of dermal (skin) exposure to pesticides, which was not unexpected given their proximity to the sprayed substances. Interestingly, the study found that the type of orchard—whether apple or citrus—made little difference in the overall levels of pesticide exposure, except on wipes and faces. This suggests that the type of crop may not be as significant a factor in exposure as previously thought. However, when looking at inhalation exposure, the variability was influenced by the location and the clustering of data, indicating that environmental factors or application methods could play a role. One of the key findings from this research was the impact of protective clothing. Applicators in China often work with varying levels of protection, and the study revealed that enhanced protective measures, especially the use of gloves, can significantly reduce the amount of pesticides that come into contact with the skin. To evaluate the exposure levels, the researchers employed two statistical models: a simple random sampling model and an intercept-only lognormal mixed model. These models were used to estimate the likely exposure levels for both dermal and inhalation routes. The accuracy of these estimates was within an acceptable range, providing confidence in the use of these models for future health risk assessments. This study builds on previous research by offering a more detailed analysis of pesticide exposure. Earlier studies have indicated that exposure assessment methods (EAM) can vary widely and are often subject to misclassification[2]. Direct methods like biomonitoring are less frequently used than indirect methods such as self-reported exposures, which can lead to inaccuracies. The current study's use of empirical data to model exposure levels provides a more reliable approach for estimating health risks. Furthermore, epidemiological studies have shown inconsistent results regarding the link between pesticide exposure and health outcomes, such as prostate cancer[3]. The method of exposure assessment has been found to contribute to this inconsistency, with some methods leading to weak or non-significant associations. The precision of the exposure measurement in the present study could help clarify these associations in future research. The case of a 72-year-old man who developed hypersensitivity pneumonia after years of pesticide fumigation[4] underscores the importance of accurate exposure assessment and early diagnosis. The present study's findings could contribute to better surveillance and preventive measures for workers at risk of such conditions. In conclusion, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs in China has provided valuable insights into the levels of pesticide exposure among orchard applicators and the effectiveness of protective clothing. By employing robust statistical models to estimate exposure levels, this research enhances our understanding of the risks associated with pesticide application and paves the way for improved occupational health standards in the agricultural sector.



Main Study

1) Assessment of pesticide exposure to applicators during spraying in orchards with a stretcher-mounted sprayer.

Published 15th April, 2024 (future Journal edition)


Related Studies

2) Systematic review of methods used to assess exposure to pesticides in occupational epidemiology studies, 1993-2017.


3) Occupational exposure to pesticides and prostate cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis.


4) Occupational exposure to pesticides and chronic hypersensitivity pneumonia: a case report.


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