Gender differences in acute pesticide-related illnesses and injuries among farmworkers in the United States, 1998-2007

Am J Ind Med. 2012 Jul;55(7):571-83. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22052. Epub 2012 Apr 11.


Background: Farmworkers have a high risk for acute pesticide-related illness and injury, and the rate among female farmworkers is approximately twice as high as that among males. Surveillance data were used to identify reasons for this gender difference.

Methods: We identified acute pesticide-related illness and injury cases among farmworkers from the Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risks (SENSOR)-Pesticides Program and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Gender-specific associations with acute pesticide-related illness and injury were assessed using chi-square tests. National Agricultural Workers Survey data were also examined.

Results: The over-representation of females among farmworker illness and injury cases was confined to females who did not handle pesticides (non-handlers). Female non-handler farmworkers who were affected were more likely to be working on fruit and nut crops, to be exposed to off-target pesticide drift, and to be exposed to fungicides and fumigants compared to males.

Conclusions: Although there is an increased risk for acute pesticide-related illness and injury among female farmworkers, the absolute number of farmworkers with acute pesticide-related illness and injury is far higher among males than females. Furthermore, farmworkers have little or no control over many of the identified contributing factors that led to illness and injury. Stringent enforcement of existing regulations and enhanced regulatory efforts to protect against off-target drift exposures may have the highest impact in reducing acute pesticide-related illness and injury among farmworkers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Agriculture / statistics & numerical data*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Occupational Health*
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Risk
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Statistics as Topic
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Pesticides