A proportionate mortality analysis of California agricultural workers, 1978-1979

Am J Ind Med. 1984;6(4):305-20. doi: 10.1002/ajim.4700060408.


There are few published reports of epidemiologic studies of the risks of agricultural work. Members of this occupational group have been of special concern because of their exposure to pesticides, some of which are mutagens and animal carcinogens. A previous proportionate mortality study of California agricultural workers was based on deaths recorded among white males of this occupational group during 1959-1961. We have conducted a proportionate mortality analysis of all deaths recorded during 1978-1979 among California farm workers and farm owner/managers. In general, the findings of our study are consistent with those of the previous study. For farm workers, we found proportionate mortality ratios (PMRs) which were consistently elevated for all race and sex categories (in which there were 6 or more decedents) for deaths due to motor vehicle accidents, all respiratory disease, and all infective and parasitic diseases. The PMRs for the former three causes of death were also found to be elevated across several race and sex categories for farm owner/managers. We also found a significant and consistent deficit of deaths among farm workers and farm owner/managers due to arteriosclerotic heart disease. The proportionate cancer mortality ratios (PCMRs) for cancer of the stomach and cancer of other lymphatic tissue were elevated, although not necessarily statistically significantly, for several race and sex categories among farm workers and farm owner/managers. The PCMR for cancer of the cervix was statistically significant for white female farmworkers.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / mortality*
  • Agriculture
  • California
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / mortality
  • Humans
  • Infections / mortality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Pesticides / toxicity
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / mortality
  • Risk
  • Urologic Diseases / mortality


  • Pesticides