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Ann Emerg Med. 1997 Feb;29(2):232-8.

Agricultural and horticultural chemical poisonings: mortality and morbidity in the United States.

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Maryland Poison Center, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.



To provide a comprehensive analysis of morbidity and mortality from poisoning by agricultural and horticultural chemicals in the United States.


Descriptive analysis of national mortality data, National Hospital Discharge Survey data, and American Association of Poison Control Centers national data for 1985 through 1990.


There were 341 fatalities from agricultural and horticultural chemicals over the 6-year period, of which 64% were suicides, 28% were unintentional, and 8% were of undetermined intent. There were 25,418 hospitalizations; 78% were reported to be unintentional. Both deaths and hospitalizations occurred more frequently in males, and rates were higher in nonwhites than in whites. There were 338,170 poison exposures reported to poison centers for fungicides, herbicides, pesticides/insecticides, and rodenticides. Life-threatening manifestations or long-term sequelae occurred in 782 cases, and 97 deaths were reported. Pesticides and insecticides accounted for 72% of the poison center cases and 63% of the fatalities. Although they accounted for only 8% of poison exposures, herbicide deaths were disproportionately high (25%).


Poisonings with agricultural and horticultural chemicals are an important public health problem. Prevention efforts need to incorporate the fact that many serious cases, such as paraquat poisonings, are suicidal in nature.

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