Community exposure to a paraquat drift

Arch Environ Health. 1993 Jan-Feb;48(1):47-52. doi: 10.1080/00039896.1993.9938392.


A mixture of paraquat and water was applied, by helicopter, to agricultural fields near a residential community and near an associated commercial complex. Drift from the application passed directly over the community, which resulted in resident complaints to the local county agricultural department. A community survey was undertaken to determine what health consequences, if any, resulted from the drift. A comparison of 2-wk self-reported symptom rates between the exposed community and three historical control communities indicated that 10 symptoms were elevated significantly at p < .05: cough, diarrhea, eye irritation, headache, nausea, rhinitis, throat irritation, trouble breathing, unusual tiredness, and wheezing. An internal comparison, which predicted symptom rates by an index of paraquat exposure (smelling an unusual odor in the prior 2-wk period), indicated fever (relative risk [RR] = 11.97) and nausea (RR = 3.75) to have elevated relative risks. Odor perception also predicted the report of a greater than the average number of symptoms. Based upon these findings, it was concluded that these residents probably did experience an increase in health symptoms from the drift. It is recommended that paraquat not be sprayed near residential communities.

MeSH terms

  • California
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diarrhea / chemically induced*
  • Diarrhea / epidemiology
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Fatigue / chemically induced*
  • Fatigue / epidemiology
  • Headache / chemically induced*
  • Headache / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Nausea / chemically induced*
  • Nausea / epidemiology
  • Paraquat / adverse effects*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors


  • Paraquat