The objective of the study was to describe self-reported health symptoms, the use of personal protective gear and clothing and poor safety procedures when applying pesticides among farm workers. A total of 128 adult farm workers were interviewed using a structured questionnaire during the farming season. The commonly used pesticides included profenofos, mancozeb, chlorpyrifos, cypermethrin, deltamethrin, permethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, endosulfan and carbosulfan. The majority (>90%) of farm workers used no personal protective clothing while handling pesticides. More than one-third of farm workers ate and drank without washing their hands following pesticide handling, while a smaller number smoked or chewed gum. Wearing special boots during pesticide application was found to reduce the risk of skin rash (OR = 0.2, 95% CI: 0.06-0.66), whereas smoking when applying pesticides increased the risk of chest pain occurrence (OR = 4.0, 95% CI: 1.14-15.43), as well as forgetfulness (OR = 4.0, 95% CI: 1.30-14.02). Chewing gum and eating when applying pesticides was associated with diarrhoea (OR = 11.0, 95% CI: 1.80-6.84 and OR = 7.0, 95% CI: 1.27-3.67 respectively). The increased self-reported prevalence of post-exposure adverse health effects among farm workers was associated with poor use of personal protective clothing and poor safety practices during pesticide use and handling. These data indicate the need for improved availability and use of protective equipment, and training in crop and pest management practices to prevent risky behavioursand for safer and sustainable vegetable production.
Keywords: pesticides; post-exposure effects.