Objectives: To assess the health status, attitude and level of awareness of safe pesticide handling practices of farm workers engaged in the application of pesticides on agricultural farms.
Design: Cross sectional study.
Setting: Two farms in northwest Ethiopia, 2004.
Subjects: Farm workers of job categories; sprayers, pest assessors, supervisors, spraymachine mechanics and tractor operators.
Results: The farm workers had respiratory symptoms of cough, phlegm and wheezing. Systolic and diastolic blood pressures did not show abnormalities. Liver function tests showed elevated values. Respiratory symptoms in the farm workers revealed that cough phlegm and wheezing at Ayehu farm were significantly (p < 0.05) higher than the controls. Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) at Birr Farm in the sprayers and mechanics were significantly higher than the controls (p < 0.05). The ALP value in the sprayers, glutamate pyruvate transaminase (GPT) in the assessors and glutamate oxaloacetate transaminase (GOT) in the sprayers and mechanics at Ayehu were significantly higher than the controls (p < 0.05). From a total of 82 farm workers 35.7% at Birr and 75% at Ayehu Farm described that they were not formally instructed about safe pesticide handling methods.
Conclusion: The farm workers health is affected by the unwise use of pesticides. The level of awareness and attitude on safe pesticide handling practices is low. It is recommended that appropriate type of personal protective device (PPD), in service training about the proper use of chemical pesticides and periodic medical check-up should be fulfilled to minimise the adverse health effects of chemical pesticides.