Risk-accepting personality and personal protective equipment use within the Agricultural Health Study

J Agromedicine. 2012;17(3):264-76. doi: 10.1080/1059924X.2012.686390.


Pesticide exposures can be reduced by use of personal protective equipment as well as proper mixing and application practices. The authors examined the effects of risk-accepting personality on personal protective equipment (PPE) use and mixing and application practices among private pesticide applicators and their spouses within the Agricultural Health Study (AHS) in Iowa and North Carolina and commercial applicators in Iowa. The AHS follow-up questionnaire included four questions designed to assess attitudes toward risk. Analysis was limited to those who were currently working on a farm or registered as a commercial applicator and indicated current pesticide use (n=25,166). Respondents who answered three or more questions in the affirmative (private applicators: n=4160 [21%]; commercial applicators: n=199 [14%]; spouses: n=829 [23%]) were classified as having a risk-accepting personality. Logistic regression was used to evaluate specific work practices associated with risk-accepting attitudes. Among private applicators, the likelihood of using any PPE when mixing or loading pesticides was lower among risk-acceptors compared to risk-averse individuals (odds ratio [OR] = 0.72, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.65-0.79). A similar relationship was observed among commercial applicators (OR = 0.77, 95% CI: 0.34-1.77) but not among spouses (OR = 1.09, 95% CI: 0.90-1.33). Among private applicators, risk-acceptors were more likely than the risk-averse to apply pesticides within 50 feet of the home (OR = 1.21, 95% CI: 1.01-1.44), compared to further than ¼ mile. These findings suggest that the decisions to use personal protective equipment and properly handle/apply pesticides may be driven by risk-accepting personality traits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Iowa
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Personality*
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Protective Clothing
  • Protective Devices
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workforce


  • Pesticides