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Int J Occup Environ Health. 2002 Jan-Mar;8(1):46-59.

Pesticide usage and health consequences for women in developing countries: out of sight, out of mind?

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  • 1Department of Public Health and Primary Health Care, University of Cape Town, South Africa.


Pesticide exposures of women in developing countries are aggravated by economic policy changes associated with structural adjustment programs and globalization. Women in these countries, particularly in the agricultural sector, are increasingly exposed. Since they are concentrated in the most marginal positions in the formal and informal workforces, and production is organized in a gender-specific way, opportunities for women to control their exposures are limited. Data from developing countries show that: 1) women's exposures to pesticides are significantly higher than is recognized; 2) poisonings and other pesticide-related injuries are greatly underestimated for women; 3) for a given adverse outcome from exposure, the experience of that outcome is gender-discriminatory; 4) erroneous risk perception increases women's exposures. The hiatus in knowledge of gender-specific exposures and effects is related to gender biases in the nature of epidemiologic inquiry and in the literature, and the gendered nature of health workers' practices and surveillance. Recommendations are made for strong, independent organizations that provide opportunities for women to control their environments, and the factors affecting their health, as well as gender-sensitive research to address the particularities of women's pesticide exposures.

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