Department of Public Health Sciences

Exposure to dust, noise and pesticides, their determinants and the use of protective equipment among California farm operators

Nieuwenhuijsen, M.J., M.B. Schenker, S.J. Samuels, J.A. Farrar and R.S. Green

Applied Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. 1996. 11(10):1217-1225.

California has a very diverse and productive agricultural industry. We studied the determinants of the exposure to dust, noise, and pesticides and the use of protective equipment among 1947 randomly selected California farm operators. The farm operators completed a telephone interview during 1993 and were asked about work and farm characteristics and use of protective equipment. The median farm size was 60 acres. There were considerable differences in the self-reported percentage of time working in a dusty job and in a noisy job, and in the number of days using pesticides, between types of farming and between regions. Field crop farm operators reported the highest percentages of time in noisy or dusty jobs (median noise 30%, dust 20%) and nursery farmers reported the lowest (median noise 1%, dust 0%). Pesticide use varied among farm categories, with 5.4 percent of the livestock farmers and 37.1 percent of the nursery farmers reporting ten pesticide days or more per year. One of the strongest and most plausible predictors of exposure to dust and noise was the percentage of time driving a tractor. The use of protective equipment increased with an increase in the number of pesticide days and noise exposure, but did not increase with an increase in dust exposure. This article provides unique statewide information on exposure in California farming and can be used for epidemiological studies and to set priorities in health and safety.

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