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Pesticide exposure risks vary among California ag workers: report

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tractor-spraying

Photo: Hemera/Thinkstock

Washington – The California Department of Pesticide Regulation faces unique challenges in assessing pesticide exposure risk for agricultural workers in the state, according to a report from the National Research Council.

NRC analyzed the state’s agricultural workers as part of a larger, independent review that DPR requested to improve its risk-assessment process for pesticides. More than 300 pesticides qualify for potential risk assessment by DPR, which categorizes the chemicals into high-, medium- and low-priority groups.

The council’s report included several worker-related findings:

  • Risk assessments for workers in California may differ from nationwide estimates because of the state’s climate, growing seasons and types of agriculture.
  • Demographics of agricultural workers in California also may vary significantly from nationwide estimates.
  • During growing season, agricultural workers may have shifts of more than 10 hours a day, handle labor-intensive crops and lack access to showers.
  • Adolescent workers should receive more consideration in risk assessments.
  • Children of workers in agricultural fields also should receive more consideration in risk assessments.

“[The Environmental Protection Agency] has an initiative underway to revise its risk-assessment methods for workers, children of workers in agricultural fields, and pesticides that have no food uses,” the report said. “This presents an opportunity for DPR to collaborate with EPA on these important issues.”