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Environ Health Perspect. 1998 Jul;106(7):415-20.

Factors associated with self-reported, pesticide-related visits to health care providers in the agricultural health study.

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Epidemiology and Biostatistics Program, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


To investigate factors associated with pesticide-related visits to health care providers (i.e., doctor or hospital visits), responses to self-administered questionnaires received from 35,879 licensed restricted-use pesticide applicators participating in the Agricultural Health Study were analyzed. (In Iowa, applicators are actually certified, whereas in North Carolina they are licensed; for ease of reference, the term license will be used for both states in this paper.) The cohort reported a total of more than 10.9 million pesticide-application days. These applications were associated with one or more pesticide-related health care visits by 2,214 applicators (7.0% of the applicator cohort for whom health care visit data were available). The odds of a pesticide-related health care visit were increased for commercial applicators compared to private applicators [odds ratio (OR = 1.77; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.52-2.06) and for applicators who used insecticides 70 times or more in their lifetime compared to those who used insecticides less frequently (OR = 1.43; CI, 1.26-1.63). After adjusting for the number of applications in a logistic regression model, significantly higher odds of health care visits were observed among North Carolina applicators compared to Iowa applicators (OR = 1.35; CI, 1.17-1.52), among applicators who mixed their own pesticides (OR = 1.65; CI, 1. 22-2.23), and among applicators who personally repaired their pesticide application equipment at least once per year (OR = 1.12; CI, 1.06-1.25). Significantly lower odds were found among female versus male applicators (OR = 0.68; CI, 0.46-0.99) and among applicators who graduated from high school versus those who did not (OR = 0.82; CI, 0.71-0.94 for high school graduates and OR = 0.79; CI, 0.68-0.91 for those with at least some college). Several methods of pesticide application to crops, seed, or stored grain were also associated with significantly elevated odds ratios of health care visits. These observations suggest that several steps can be taken to reduce the number of health care visits resulting from occupational exposure to pesticides. The implications of this pattern of pesticide-related health care visits may have etiologic implications for cancer and other chronic diseases.

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