Background: Families of farmer pesticide applicators have unusual opportunities for exposure, directly or indirectly, to pesticides. These exposures are not well characterized.
Methods: Subjects were 26,793 licensed private pesticide applicators enrolled in the Agricultural Health Study, a cohort study being conducted in Iowa and North Carolina. Questionnaires were completed by the applicators and their spouses.
Results: Many indirect exposure opportunities exist; for example, 21% of homes are within 50 yards of pesticide mixing areas, 27% of applicators store pesticides in their homes, and 94% of clothing worn for pesticide work is washed in the same machine as other laundry. Direct exposure opportunities also occur; for example, 51% of wives of applicators worked in the fields in the last growing season, 40% of wives have ever mixed or applied pesticides, and over half of children aged 11 or more do farm chores.
Discussion/conclusions: The extent of the opportunities for exposure of family members of farmer pesticide applicators makes studies of their health important.