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Project Details

Farmworker Intervention Study

A female farworker in the fields wearing a wide-brimmed hat, neck covering, and gloves.
Project Summary: 

The focus of this study was to reduce pesticide exposures to strawberry harvesters and their families. Pesticides can accumulate on farmworkers’ hands, skin, clothing, and shoes. They may be carried home, contaminating homes and cars and directly exposing others, including children. The Farmworker Intervention Study was conducted with strawberry harvesters near Salinas, CA to find sustainable ways to reduce take-home pesticide exposure.

The research team investigated:

  • Ways to reduce pesticide exposure to farmworkers and their families.
  • Interventions included field-based educational presentations, hand-washing stations, and use of gloves and protective clothing.
  • We then compared pesticide levels of those who participated in the interventions with those who did not.
Main Findings: 
  • Clothing and gloves reduced observed levels of the organophosphate (OP) pesticide malathion on the skin and hands of strawberry harvesters
  • Wearing gloves significantly reduced urinary malathion metabolites in strawberry harvesters
  • Workers who ate strawberries in the field had higher malathion metabolite levels in urine compared to workers who did not

Study findings suggest that:

  • Wearing gloves and coveralls reduces pesticide exposure to strawberry pickers
  • Removing work clothes before leaving the fields could reduce transport of pesticides into worker homes and cars.
    ◦Workers need to be better informed about exposure from eating strawberries in the field.
  • Policy, Practice or Research Impacts: 

    The US EPA Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is a comprehensive worksite education program for farmworkers (Read the full WPS on the EPA website here). Although WPS regulations require training and notification of workers about pesticide safety measures (including re-entry intervals, requirements for protective clothing, pesticide ingredients and other information), the WPS does not directly address the potential for occupational ‘‘take-home’’ exposure. When workers transport pesticide residues into their homes on their skin or clothing, they are potentially exposing family members, including children who are more vulnerable to harmful effects of pesticide exposure than are adults. This study resulted in concrete recommendations for farmworkers regarding the most effective, practical ways to reduce occupational pesicide exposure to themselves and their families.

    Contact Person: 
    Dr. Asa Bradman
    Contact Person's Email Address:
    Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health (CERCH)
    Principal Investigators: 
    Dr. Brenda Eskenazi
    Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, CERCH Farmworker Council, CERCH Communicty Advisory Board, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    The National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
    Location - States: 
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    Publication Date: