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Am J Ind Med. 1999 Aug;36(2):239-47.

Mortality among aerial pesticide applicators and flight instructors: follow-up from 1965-1988.

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  • 1Occupational Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.



Vital status followup for a retrospective cohort mortality study of 9,961 male aerial pesticide applicators was extended beyond a previous study (1965-1979) (Cantor et al. 1991), through December 31, 1988.


Rate ratios (RR) were used to compare directly adjusted mortality rates between applicators and a comparison cohort of 9,969 flight instructors. Standardized mortality ratios (SMR) were calculated for comparisons with the U.S. white male population.


Among applicator pilots, there were 1,441 deaths, and among instructors, 1,045. In both groups, aircraft accidents were the major cause of death (446 applicators; 234 instructors). Compared with flight instructors, aerial applicator pilots were at significantly elevated risk for all causes of death (risk ratio = 1.34) and for malignant neoplasms (1.18), non-motor vehicle accidents (1.71), motor vehicle accidents (1.69), and stroke (1.91). Pancreatic cancer (2.71) and leukemia (3.35) were significantly elevated. Applicators were at lower risk of colon cancer (0.51) and multiple myeloma (0.23) mortality. Based on U.S. rates, the SMR for all causes of death among applicators was 111 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 105-117) and among instructors, 81 (CI = 76-85).


Aircraft accidents were a major cause of mortality in both applicator and flight instructor cohorts. Several other causes of death, some possibly related to pesticide exposure, were also elevated among pesticide applicator pilots. Published 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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