Pesticide Knowledge and Risk Perception among Adolescent Latino Farmworkers

Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
  • Bryan, Charlene;
  • Lasarev, Michael R.;
  • McCauley, Linda A.;
  • Scherer, Jennifer A.;
  • Sticker, Diana


A substantial proportion of the agricultural production in the U.S. is dependent on the labor of Latino farmworkers. While exact figures are not known, it is estimated that adolescents make up 7% of this valuable workforce. These young workers may be at increased risk for the toxic effects of environmental exposures encountered during their work. Furthermore, language barriers and health beliefs may influence the risk perceptions of this population.

We conducted a cross-sectional survey of migrant adolescent farmworkers in 1998 to investigate their work practices, health beliefs, and pesticide knowledge. The large majority of the adolescents in our sample were from Mexico, and 36.3% spoke primarily indigenous languages. Many of the adolescents (64.7%) were traveling and working in the U.S. independent of their parents. Few of the adolescents reported having received pesticide training; however, 21.6% of the sample reported that their current work involved mixing and/or applying agricultural chemicals. The scores on the pesticide knowledge questionnaire were found to significantly predict self-reported use of protection for adolescent farmworkers.

The results of this study point to a need for improved pesticide training in youth agricultural workers and specialized education efforts directed toward minorities who speak indigenous dialects. Special attention is merited toward adolescent farmworkers who report that their work includes mixing or applying agricultural chemicals. As the number of adolescent farmworkers increases in the U.S. and the characteristics of the migrant stream continue to change, culturally and developmentally appropriate instruments are needed to adequately assess the health beliefs and protective practices of this population.

Full article can be found in: Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
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