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J Agromedicine. 2012;17(3):300-15. doi: 10.1080/1059924X.2012.688467.

Human exposures to pesticides in the United States.

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North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health, Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-1912, USA.


Pesticides are used in most homes, businesses, and farms to control a variety of pests, including insects, weeds, fungi, rodents, and even microbial organisms. Inappropriate use of pesticides can lead to adverse effects to humans and the environment. This study provides updated information on the magnitude of adverse pesticide exposures in the United States. Data on pesticide exposure were obtained from calls to poison control centers (PCCs) reported by the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Estimates of emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and health care costs were reported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and deaths from pesticide poisonings reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) WONDER (Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research). An average of 23 deaths occur each year with pesticides as the underlying cause of death, most due to suicidal ingestions. An average of 130,136 calls to poison control centers were reported from 2006 to 2010, with an average of 20,116 cases (17.8%) treated in health care facilities annually. AHQR reported an annual average of 7385 emergency room visits during 2006 to 2008, and 1419 annual hospitalizations during 2005 to 2009. Excluding cost from lost work time, hospital physician fees, and pesticide-induced cancers, the annual national cost associated with pesticide exposures was estimated as nearly $200 million USD based on data from emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and for deaths. Pesticide exposures remain a significant public health issue. Health care providers, cooperative extension agents, and pesticide manufactures can help prevent exposures by increasing education of parents and workers, encourage use of less toxic agents, and encourage the practice of integrated pest management.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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