Determinants of high pesticide exposure events in the agricultural health cohort study from enrollment (1993-1997) through phase II (1999-2003)

J Agric Saf Health. 2012 Jul;18(3):167-79. doi: 10.13031/2013.41955.


We conducted an analysis of the determinants of high pesticide exposure events (HPEEs), which are defined as self-reported incidents of high exposure to pesticides, fertilizers, or other chemicals in the Agricultural Health Study, a cohort of private applicators and their spouses residing in North Carolina or Iowa, and commercial applicators residing in Iowa. We examined the risk of HPEEs occurring between enrollment (phase 1: 1993-1997) and follow-up (phase II: 1999-2003) among participants who completed the phase II questionnaire (n=43,149) by calculating hazard rate ratios and 95% confidence intervals using Cox proportional-hazard regression. During the followup period, 1,582 HPEEs were reported (3.8%). HPEE risk was significantly higher among Iowa residents, younger participants, those with a hearing deficit, a risk-taking personality, and an HPEE prior to enrollment. Among private applicators (n=30,102), larger farm size, higher frequency and duration of pesticide use, spraying pesticides with open cab windows, using a tractor cab without a charcoal filter, repairing spray equipment, wearing work clothing more than two days without changing, not removing work boots before entering the home, and storing pesticides in the home were associated with significantly higher HPEE risk. Among commercial applicators (n=2326), higher frequency of pesticide use was associated with a significantly higher HPEE risk. Among spouses (n=10,721), higher frequency of pesticide use, using an application vehicle with a cab, and storing pesticides in the home were associated with a significantly higher HPEE risk. Our findings indicate that HPEEs were associated with several modifiable pesticide handling procedures that can be targeted in safety training and education.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Agriculture / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Fertilizers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Gardening / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Iowa
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Pesticides*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Fertilizers
  • Pesticides