Department of Public Health Sciences

Work patterns and self reported exposure of California farm operators

Nieuwenhuijsen, M.J., M.B. Schenker, C. Saiki, S.J. Samuels and R.S. Green

Appl Occup Env Hygiene. 1997. 12:685-690.

California agriculture is a gigantic industry with 76,000 farms. An estimated 1.5 million people are directly employed on these farms, and an estimated $19.9 billion worth of farm products are sold each year. Farming has been associated with a wide variety of hazardous airborne exposures. The development of respiratory disease depends, among other factors, on the duration of airborne exposures. The aim of this study was to collect information on the duration of time California farm operators personally spend on various operations and on how dusty they perceive the operations to be. The majority of farm operators (83%) reported work on crop-related operations, while a minority (27%) reported work on livestock-related operations. There were considerable differences in the duration of time California farm operators spent on various operations, some of which could be explained by the differences in commodities they grew or raised. Mechanical harvesting in particular, of fruits and nuts - and ground preparation operations were perceived to be the dustiest operations (dust rating = 6.0 and 4.6, respectively). The farm operators estimated that their exposure to dust, gases, fumes, and pesticides had declined over the past 10 years.

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