A Study of Pesticide Safety and Health Perceptions Among Tarrant County Pesticide Applicators




Martinez, Robert A.


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Pesticides have become an important part of our lives. We rely on them to help protect our crops from pest; they rid our homes of unwanted pests and help us make our lawns and public parks beautiful. Pesticides are also important to public health. They are a major source of vector control and help stop the spread of vector-borne disease. Even though we used them in our everyday lives, it is important to remember that pesticides are poisons, and that great care must be taken to ensure the safety of the public and safety of those who work with pesticides. This study looked at the safety knowledge and health perceptions among Tarrant County, Texas licensed applicators. Much research has been focused on the effects of pesticides on human health. Much of this research has been focus on the farmer applicator (Alavanja, 1999). This study focuses on applicators that work mostly in the urban areas of the County, as well as ranchers live in the County. These licensed urban applicators included those who work for city parks departments, golf courses, commercial applicators, lawn care service, pest control and some private ranchers. The Texas Pesticide Regulations require that a person may not use a restricted-use or state-limited use pesticides or herbicides unless licensed by the Texas Department of Agriculture (2000). Therefore the purpose of this study is to see if an association between health beliefs and pesticide safety knowledge exist. The reason it is important is because these people can have either a positive or negative impact on the safety of themselves and their crews. Acute pesticide poisoning is one of the biggest risks that applicators face. The state of Texas conducts an active surveillance of occupational-related pesticide poisonings. The Environmental Epidemiology and Toxicology Division at the Texas Department of Health (TDH) have had this system in place since 1985. TDH reported that 107 work related cases occurred during 1998, with 55 confirmed as occupational pesticide poisoning (1998). The most frequent symptoms reported were neuromuscular symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, confusion, irritability, and twitching muscles. Pyrethroids and pyrethins were the most commonly reported class of pesticides exposure (51%) followed by Organophosphates (25%), which are the most widely used form of insecticides, as well as herbicides and fungicides. Pesticide safety and the TDH surveillance system are two very important ways of informing pesticide applicators about the risk and what can be done to minimize that risk to themselves and their crew.