Importance of respiratory exposure to pesticides among agricultural populations

Int J Toxicol. 2002 Sep-Oct;21(5):371-81. doi: 10.1080/10915810290096612.


In the majority of cases, respiratory exposure accounts for a small fraction of total body exposure to pesticides; however, higher volatility pesticides pose a greater risk for exposure, particularly in enclosed spaces and near application sites. In 2000, nearly 22 million pounds of active ingredients designated as toxic air contaminants (TACs) were applied as pesticides in California (combined agricultural and reportable non-agricultural uses; California Department of Pesticide Regulation, 2001a, Summary of Pesticide Use Report Data, 2000, Sacramento, CA: author). Agricultural workers and agricultural community residents are at particular risk for exposure to these compounds. The TAC program in California, and more recently the federal Clean Air Act amendments, have begun to address the exposures of these groups and have promulgated exposure guidelines that are, in general, much more stringent than the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) worker exposure guidelines. Choosing lower volatility pesticides, lower concentrations of active ingredients, and handling equipment designed to minimize exposure can often reduce worker respiratory exposures significantly. The use of personal protective equipment, which would be facilitated by the development of more ergonomic alternatives, is important in these higher respiratory exposure situations. Finally, in the case of community residents, measures taken to protect workers often translate to lower ambient air concentrations, but further study and development of buffer zones and application controls in a given area are necessary to assure community protection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / etiology*
  • Agriculture*
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / adverse effects*
  • California
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Pesticides / adverse effects*
  • Respiratory Protective Devices


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Pesticides