NORTHWEST JUSTICE PROJECT, Wenatchee
- Monolingual Spanish speaking farm workers are extremely vulnerable to pesticide exposure and are often afraid to speak out.
- “The risk of developing prostate cancer was 14% greater for the pesticide applicators compared to the general population.” May 1, 2003, American Journal of Epidemiology.
- Medical providers can aid farm workers by being on the look-out for pesticide exposures.
- Farm workers may not inform the physician about pesticide exposure unless asked.
Where you suspect that the farm worker may have been exposed to pesticides ask questions about his or her work environment.
- Keep track of the effects of exposure over time.
- Under workers’ compensation, the Department of Labor and Industries will pay for the first visit to the doctor if the injury is work related. To approve the claim:
- Must establish injury with “objective medical findings”
- clear evidence of exposure
- evidence of chemicals or pesticides
Under the workers’ compensation system, the standard principles of toxicology are applied to all exposure claims, including pesticide claims.
- The Department requires “objective medical findings” in pesticide exposure claims and accepts such claims, where the following exists:
clear documentation of exposure (blood tests, other confirming tests)
- the doctor relates the worker’s complaints/condition to the pesticide exposure
- The Department of Labor and Industries generally receives pesticide information under such claims, as growers are required to keep pesticide application records.
- The Department can identify pesticide exposure claims by the use of key words such as “spray” or “pesticides” in the Report of Accident form.
- Document the farm worker’s pesticide exposure, even where the symptoms of this particular exposure are not acute, as the worker may suffer from cumulative exposures.
Where does the worker live?
- Where does the worker work?
- Farm workers that reside and/or work in or near orchards or fields are more likely to be exposed to pesticides, even without knowing it. (DOH, Summary Results of Yakima Farmworker Focus Groups About Pesticides and Health Care, 9/22/03
Were pesticides sprayed prior to field/orchard entry? – Any signs posted?
- Were pesticides sprayed while working?
- What crop was sprayed?
- Drift exposure - Where did the exposure occur? Anyone spraying in the same orchard/field where live or work, or in an adjacent orchard/field?
- Did other workers complain of similar symptoms? e.g., headaches, nausea, etc.
The method of application may aid in determining the pesticide.
- Sprayer pulled by a Tractor?
- Hand sprayers?
Pesticide Information Resources
Pesticide Known: The farm worker knows the pesticide name (and preferably has the label).
- Pesticide Unknown: Where the farm worker does not know or is uncertain, there are a variety of resources available.
State Law Requires employers who apply or have others apply pesticides in connection with agricultural production must keep records for each application. RCW 49.70.119.
- An employer must provide the pesticide record information to a health care professional where it is needed for treatment. RCW 49.70.119 (6).
- The health care professional is NOT required to disclose the name of the employee. RCW 49.70.119 (6)(a).
- An employer must provide the information immediately by telephone and within 24 hours provide a copy of the written record. RCW 49.70.119 (6)(b).
- The employee is entitled to a copy of the pesticide information. RCW 49.70.119 (6)(c).
- LABEL & MSDS
- US – Ag/Crop
- US – T&O/Non-Crop
- Canada – Ag/Crop
- Canada – T&O/Non/Crop
The new revised version of EPA's pesticide poisoning handbook, 5th edition - Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings
edited by Dr. Routt Reigart and Dr. James Roberts, and published by EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs.
Both English and Spanish versions are available in PDF format.
By Types of Agents
By Adverse Effects
By Types of Diseases
High Risk Jobs
By Types of Jobs
National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM)
The mission of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) is to advance the progress of medicine and improve the public health by:
1) providing all U.S. health professionals with equal access to biomedical information; and,
2) improving the public's access to information to enable them to make informed decisions about their health. The Program is coordinated by the National Library of Medicine
and carried out through a nationwide network of health science libraries and information centers
Pesticides Resource Library
With the prevalent use of pesticides in agricultural, urban, rural, workplace, and community settings, health care professionals are currently ill prepared to diagnose and treat pesticide-related health conditions. The information presented here has been gathered from various sources including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Pesticide Telecommunication Network, University Agromedicine Programs, American Academy of Family Physicians, Rachel Carson Council.and others. This information can be useful to health care providers in their education, research and practice to learn and understand more about pesticides issues.
Help Getting Started
- Chemical Search or
- Chemical List
- Product Search
- New! Pesticide
- Diagnostic Tool
Pesticides and Human Health:
A Resource for Health Care Professionals
- Pesticide Database
Verify the type of
pesticide utilized to the
- Investigate conflicting
Case example: Physician
misdiagnosed a pesticide
exposure as influenza where he
was unaware that the orchard
where farm worker was
employed had recently been
Providers can play an important role in
noting potential health effects. Watch for:
- Patterns of Acute Effects
- Chronic events
- Pass information about these patterns to
DOH and academic researchers.
- The cluster identification process is
resulting in the Department of Labor and
Industries' Chemically Related Illness
unit generating more referrals to
investigators to look into potential safety
- A hospital ER worker observed numerous cases
of both acute and chronic and pesticide
- Watch for birth defects, cancers, neurological
problems, reproductive problems, etc.
Confirm that laboratories are sending test
results to the central database.
- Tell farm workers and employers about the
need for workplace investigations and
removals when depression thresholds are
exceeded, and of follow up to make sure
those protections are happening. (Extremely
- Pesticide-related illness is a reportable
condition per WAC 246-101. You can report
by calling the Washington Poison Center at 1-
- Watch for depressions that are approaching
thresholds and highlight these to workers
- Watch for clusters of workers with
depressions, even where those depressions
don't exceed the threshold.
- Several workers with 19% depressions at one
orchard may signal the need for greater care
As persons dedicated to protecting public health, providers are in a unique position, based upon firsthand observations, to educate others regarding the prevention of pesticide exposures to farm workers.
- Share your concerns regarding the re-registration of pesticides that pose a significant health risk to farm workers.
- Express concern about allowing the application of highly toxic and volatile pesticides next to fieldworkers/homes/schools, etc.
Contact provider participants about avenues for providing general education.
- Increase your knowledge and awareness about pesticide exposure.
"Associations between pesticide use and prostate cancer risk among the farm population have been seen in previous studies; farming is the most consistent occupational risk factor for prostate cancer," Michael Alavanja of the National Cancer Institute.
- Collaborate and Communicate with Colleagues.
- Know how to recognize and accurately diagnosis acute and chronic pesticide exposures.
February 19, 2004, Yakima, WA
Patrick Pleas, Staff Attorney, Farm Worker Unit,
NORTHWEST JUSTICE PROJECT, Wenatchee