Dermal exposure assessment of pesticide use: the case of sprayers in potato farms in the Colombian highlands

Sci Total Environ. 2012 Jul 15;430:202-8. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.04.019. Epub 2012 May 29.


Quantifying dermal exposure to pesticides in farming systems in developing countries is of special interest for the estimation of potential health risks, especially when there is a lack of occupational hygiene regulations. In this paper we present the results of a dermal exposure assessment for the potato farming system in the highlands of Colombia, where farmers apply pesticides with hand pressure sprayers without any personal protective equipment. The fractioning of the pesticide, in terms of potential and actual dermal exposure, was determined via the whole-body dosimetry methodology, using the tracer uranine as pesticide surrogate, and luminescence spectrometry as analytical method. We assessed the three activities involved in pesticide management: preparation, application, and cleaning; analyzed three types of nozzles: one with a standard discharge and two modified by farmers to increase the discharge; and derived the protection factor given by work clothing. Our results suggest that to reduce the health risk, three aspects have to be considered: (i) avoiding the modification of nozzles, which affects the droplet size spectrum and increases the level of dermal exposure; (ii) using adequate work clothing made of thick fabrics, especially on the upper body parts; and (iii) cleaning properly the tank sprayer before the application activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Agriculture / instrumentation*
  • Agriculture / methods
  • Colombia
  • Developing Countries
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis
  • Environmental Pollutants / chemistry
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Fluorescein / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Occupational Exposure* / prevention & control
  • Pesticides / analysis
  • Pesticides / chemistry
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Protective Clothing
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Skin / chemistry
  • Skin / drug effects*
  • Solanum tuberosum
  • Spectrum Analysis


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Pesticides
  • Fluorescein