Public Health Pesticide Exposure and Pesticide Health Effects
by
David F. Goldsmith
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 June 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 March 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0147

Introduction

Pesticides are chemical agents designed to kill pests such as insects or rodents, or they are chemical products used either to prevent damage to crops or to prevent the growth of microbial agents capable of transmitting infection. In the United States, a pesticide is also any substance or mixture intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant (drying agent) on a crop. Pesticides differ from other environmental contaminants, like lead or other waste products, because pesticides are manufactured to either kill or prevent harm. Pesticides have societal benefits, but can also harm public health. Because of the wide variety of information sources available for pesticide exposure and health effects, and the multiple government agencies involved with pesticide registration, enforcement, and monitoring, this paper provides a comprehensive overview of some of these sources in one document. First, this paper provides a review of information sources related to pesticide exposure, including information on annual pesticide usage in agricultural, residential, commercial, institutional, and military settings; and sources for health effects data related to pesticide exposure. Second, this review outlines sources of information relevant to environmental pesticide contamination of air, water, soil, and food supplies. This article also considers acute and chronic exposure routes, carcinogenicity, neurotoxicity, dermal toxicity of pesticides, developmental/reproductive and adult health effects of pesticides. Most of the sources are in English, but sources in other languages are also relevant to understanding the extent of the health problems; every effort is made to direct readers to those sources where we can find them. This paper would not be as insightful had it not been for the generous comments of Kristin Rury, MPH.

General Pesticide Regulation Overview

The US National Library of Medicine (NLM) is home for the Toxicology and Environmental Health Information Program (TEHIP). This site includes links to databases, tutorials, bibliographies, and other scientific and consumer-oriented resources on pesticides and on many other environmental hazards. TEHIP also is responsible for the Toxicology Data Network (TOXNET®), an integrated system of toxicology and environmental health databases. Because TEHIP is tied to the published medical and public health literature via the NLM, it is a well-regarded source of information. Care needs to be taken because some databases are updated more (or less) frequently, and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) periodically cancels the registration or approves new pesticide products for the American market. There are several federal agencies in the United States with pesticide exposure, toxicology, and other health information. They include the EPA, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Two federal laws govern registration and regulation of pesticide chemicals: the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA). The EPA administers both FIFRA and FQPA. Schierow and Esworthy 2012 explains how the EPA and FDA regulate pesticide levels on fresh and processed foods. The US Department of Agriculture, through its state Agricultural Extension Service provides information on pesticide uses in relation to the production of specific crops. Under the authority of FIFRA and FQPA, the EPA regulates what pesticide active ingredients can be applied to agricultural crops, the amount of the pesticide chemical residues permitted on fresh and processed foods, the pre-harvest interval (the amount of time needed after pesticide application prior to harvest), the personal protective equipment (PPE) required by workers handling the pesticide, and the re-entry interval before workers can resume working in a treated field. In the United States, the product label contains information on the appropriate application method(s) and application rate, how much of the pesticide active ingredient is permitted on each crop, and which pests it can be used to treat or prevent. The pesticide label is a legally binding document that is extensively reviewed by pesticide manufacturers and by EPA. Any pesticide label can easily be looked up using the EPA’s Pesticide Product Label Search. It is meant to be followed exactly, and it should be clear and easy to understand for the typical applicator or user. This approach is referred to as “the label is the law.” As an example, we recommend readers examine the specimen label (Specimen Label Tempo® 2) for a cyfluthrin insecticide called “Tempo® 2,” manufactured by Bayer Corporation. Each product label states “(i)t is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” The EPA sets limits, called tolerances or maximum residue limits, for pesticide residues allowed in and on food after harvest. When setting the tolerance, EPA must determine that the pesticide can be used with “reasonable certainty of no harm” considering the toxicity of the pesticide and its metabolites, the amount and frequency of pesticide application, and the residues that will remain on the food after harvest, as determined in Setting Tolerances for Pesticide Residues in Foods. This tolerance level, if exceeded through monitoring, triggers enforcement and seizure of the food commodity by the government. In accordance with the FDA’s Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations, the FDA samples and monitors imported and domestic foods to ensure that pesticide residues are within established tolerances. All regulatory actions and processes, all scientific reviews of pesticide chemicals, and every related docket is available from EPA’s Pesticide Chemical Search. In the United Kingdom, a Pesticide Residues in Food committee monitors pesticide levels in food products. State enforcement agencies also check pesticide residue levels in domestic foods, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) monitors residue levels in meat and milk, established in Setting Tolerances for Pesticide Residues in Foods. Before these tolerances are set, the public may comment on proposed pesticide tolerances in the Federal Register. After reviewing the comments and any additional data submitted, EPA decides whether to grant the tolerance or not. These decisions are also published in the Federal Register. All pesticide tolerances are published in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Chapter 40, Part 180, which is revised annually in July.

State Pesticide Programs

Historically, California has had a long-standing pesticide regulatory program that focuses on the health of workers and consumers as well as providing rules for the State’s massive agriculture industry. The California Department of Pesticide Regulations (DPR) is part of the California EPA. For example, California collects comprehensive pesticide use data reported by farmers and pesticide application companies that enables all stakeholders to see what chemicals are applied, where they were applied, how much was applied, and when they were applied. This program is called Pesticide Use Reports (PUR), and annual summaries (PUR annual databases) have been collected since 1989. PUR data are collected because each pesticide application must be reported to the County Agriculture Commissioner, and these are summed and reported to the California DPR. In addition California collects the most comprehensive pesticide illness database in the United States. (More details will be provided in the health section). Companies with new pesticide products may seek regulatory approval in California before submitting for federal approval. Other states, in conjunction with their university agriculture schools or extension programs, have pesticide information sources that focus on crops and pests, on overall agronomy, or on health effects. Purdue University Extension has a guide to Pesticides in the Home, Lawn, and Garden. Pennsylvania State University produces a guide to reading pesticide labels, Pesticide Education Program. Both Penn State and Clemson Universities have information on pesticide storage, Pesticide Information Program. The University of Nebraska has a Pesticide Safety Education Program for farmers and for consumers. The University of Florida is the source for permitted pesticides to be used on citrus crops, Florida Citrus Pest Management Guide. Cornell University in New York provides many sources of pesticide information, including a dictionary of pesticide terms, Pesticide Safety Education Program: Pesticide Dictionary. Oregon State University is home to the EPA-sponsored National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) which has information in 170 languages other than English. NPIC is explored in greater detail in Pesticide Exposures and Health Effects.

Pesticide Residues in Foods and Water

The USDA runs the online Pesticide Data Program (PDP) that includes pesticide residue levels on foods used in the United States, with a focus on commodities used by children and infants. Information about pesticide levels in drinking water can be obtained by accessing the NPIC, Water and Pesticides page; it also has information about regulations of pesticide chemicals in water as well as antimicrobial chemical risks found in water. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) provides a consumer guide EWG Shoppers’ Guide to Pesticides identifying fruits and vegetables which typically contain the highest levels of pesticide residues, and the fruit and vegetable crops which have minimal pesticide residues. Much of EWG’s data is derived from USDA’s Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program (discussed above); the latest information comes from samples taken from 2004 to 2006. The FDA samples domestically produced foods and imported products as well, and issues annual summaries. FDA also conducts a “Total Diet Study” that determines the levels of various contaminants, including pesticides, in food as they are prepared for consumption, i.e., “table ready.” The EPA conducts acute and chronic dietary exposure assessments for pesticides. The Agency is interested in food commodities in the simplest forms (for example, apples, flour, and sugar for determining exposure from eating a piece of apple pie). The EPA uses survey data of the USDA’s Continuing Survey of Food Intake by Individuals (CSFII), which contains food consumption information from approximately twenty-two thousand individuals. The CSFII collects information on the foods eaten (apple pie) but do not collect information on the ingredients in the foods. The Food Commodity Intake Database (FCID) was developed with the USDA, EPA, and other organizations to translate the food commodities eaten (apple pie) into ingredients of each food (apples, flour, sugar) using recipes. Using the survey information collected on eating patterns, the crops and commodities the pesticide are likely to be applied to, and the amount of pesticide applied, USDA and EPA can estimate the exposure to the pesticide for different age groups in the United States (see Holden for more information on the methods used). In the international arena, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) is the source for pesticide regulations and residue information. Cornell University produces a fact sheet that provides information to reduce the pesticide levels in foods. California has a very good guide that describes the procedures the state uses for testing for pesticides in foods. California tests for two hundred pesticide products and specifically looks for illegal pesticides. California Department of Pesticide Regulations (CDPR) 2009 reports that 1 percent of samples contain illegal products; 60 percent have no pesticide residues, and the remaining 39 percent have pesticide chemical at allowable limits. Baker, et al. 2002 reported that Consumers Union (CU) scientists did side-by-side comparison of USDA pesticide levels in foods, CDPR food sample, and a set of organic and conventionally grown foods collected by CU. Apples, peaches, pears, strawberries, and celery demonstrated that 90 percent of samples contained pesticide residues. Smith-Spangler, et al. 2012 undertook a systematic review comparing conventional and organic foods; they found that organic produce leads to reduced pesticide exposure and antibiotic resistant bacteria, but there were no differences in nutritional values. These findings confirm that organic produce has lower levels of pesticides than conventionally grown products. However, it is noteworthy that organic produce does contain pesticides because “organic” farming can use pesticides such as sulfur and copper salts; in addition some organic food products were contaminated by spray drift or even by chlorinated chemicals remaining in soil. Hamilton, et al. 2004 defined levels of pesticide chemicals on food, but noted that these exposure levels (or doses) are a function of how much chemical is applied to each crop, the time since last application, methods of food preparation, portion size, and the body weight of the eater. Thus the dose (as a function of body weight) will be greater for infants than adults if they consume the same food with the same pesticide residue. This insight is the outcome of the prestigious US National Academy of Sciences 1993 report, which led to the passage of the FQPA in 1996.

Pesticide Exposures and Health Effects

Each pesticide active ingredient must go through a series of toxicology tests to evaluate the pesticide’s acute, chronic, and cancer risks from oral, dermal, and inhalation exposure prior to the registration of the pesticide by the EPA. Each label is a reflection of the full toxicity database and a comprehensive exposure assessment of the pesticide’s proposed use. Based on the results of these tests and assessments, each pesticide product contains a “signal word” on the pesticide label. The signal word is based on the hazard of the pesticide by each route of exposure (oral, dermal, inhalation, irritation to the eyes, and irritation/sensitization to the skin). A pesticide label will have “Danger” or “Poison” with a skull and cross bones if it is classified as a Category 1 hazard (highest category of toxicity). A category 2 pesticide label will contain the word “Warning,” and categories 3 and 4 pesticide labels will contain “Caution.” From a public health perspective, human health effects from exposures to pesticides have led to the development of expertise in toxicology, emergency medicine, acute and chronic disease syndromes, pediatric environmental medicine, and poison control responses. Health effects research findings of particular pesticide chemicals are the basis for what must be included on the pesticide product label in the United States. For general information on health effects of pesticides, the reader should begin by consulting Toxicology and Environmental Health Information Program (cited under General Pesticide Regulation Overview). TEHIP serves as a gateway to much more extensive health and medical information from agencies such as the EPA (see Toxicology and Environmental Health Information Program cited under General Pesticide Regulation Overview); consult the sources Non-animal Methods for Toxicity Testing, National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (National Ag Safety Database), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH 2010), FDA (Glossary of Pesticide Chemicals), and the Oregon State University National Pesticide Information Center (Roberts and Reigart 2013). Sanborn, et al. 2007 provides a review of noncancer health effects that most physicians and health care providers should look for when treating patients with pesticide exposures.

Acute Health Effects

Acute pesticide intoxications have been studied for decades, and they are an indication of the quality of safety and health culture in the handling of pesticide chemicals according to Osorio 2007 and Roberts and Reigart 2013. The most complete surveillance of acute pesticide illnesses is presented by the State of California; California’s Pesticide Illness Surveillance Program (PISP) maintains a database of pesticide-related illnesses and injuries, including acute illnesses related to cleaning and antibacterial agents. Other states have pesticide illness programs, though case reporting is generally not as complete as that in California. Mehler, et al. 2006 provides commentary on the California program. Physicians in California are required to report pesticide illnesses in the same way public health departments are required to report sexually transmitted infectious diseases. Case reports are received from physicians, emergency departments, and via workers’ compensation records. Local California County Agricultural Commissioners investigate circumstances of exposure. Medical records and other investigative findings are then evaluated by DPR technical experts and entered into an illness registry. Acute intoxication data have been collected since the 1970s. Although there are no national data on acute pesticide intoxications, NIOSH has summarized information from several other states with pesticide illness reporting systems. Sudakin and Power 2007 document how data from US Poison Control Centers provide another assessment of acute pesticide risk, especially risks from organophosphate (OP) exposures. One of the most serious acute public health problems internationally is the risk of suicide, especially among rural residents of many developing countries, where OP insecticides are commonly available, as discussed in Aardema, et al. 2008 and Freire and Koifman 2013. Gunnell, et al. 2007 estimated that approximately 260,000 deaths occur annually worldwide, from pesticide chemicals used for suicides.

  • Aardema, H., J. H. Meertens, J. J. Ligtenberg, O. M. Peters-Polman, J. E. Tulleken, and J. G. Zijlstra. 2008. Organophosphorus pesticide poisoning: Cases and developments. Netherlands Journal of Medicine 66:149–153.

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    The authors of this paper provide estimates of acute pesticide poisonings from organophosphate chemicals from outside the United States.

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    • California Department of Pesticide Regulation, Pesticide Illness Surveillance Program.

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      The California program has been active since the 1970s and remains the best state surveillance program in the United States. This site describes the methods used by the contributors to this program.

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      • Freire C., and S. Koifman. 2013. Pesticides, depression and suicide: A systematic review of the epidemiological evidence. International Journal Hygiene Environmental Health 216:445–460.

        DOI: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2012.12.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        These authors of this review concluded that the evidence relating pesticide exposure and either depression or suicide has been shown in some populations, in studies using varying epidemiological methods, but remains limited.

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        • Gunnell, D., M. Eddleston, M. R. Phillips, and F. Konradsen. 2007. The global distribution of fatal pesticide self-poisoning: Systematic review. BMC Public Health 21:357–372.

          DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-7-357Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          This is an important research paper that documents the use of organophosphates for suicide. This is particularly a problem in many Asian and African countries.

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          • Mehler, L. N., M. B. Schenker, P. S. Romano, and S. J. Samuels. 2006. California surveillance for pesticide-related illness and injury: Coverage, bias, and limitations. Journal of Agromedicine 11:67–79.

            DOI: 10.1300/J096v11n02_10Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            Dr. Mehler is a well known pesticide epidemiologist who has published extensively on the California pesticide illness data. This paper is useful because it discusses the limitations and the strengths of the state’s surveillance program.

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            • Osorio, A. M. 2007. Surveillance for pesticide-related disease. Journal of Agromedicine 12:57–66.

              DOI: 10.1300/J096v12n01_06Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              Dr. Osorio is an authority on pesticide illnesses, and this paper provides a primer on how pesticide illnesses are recorded for estimating the public health impacts and especially the impacts on farmers and farmworkers.

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              • Roberts, J. R., and J. R. Reigart, eds. 2013. Recognition and Management of Acute Pesticide Poisoning. National Pesticide Information Center.

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                This is a very well known reference for clinicians and nurses who might be the first health care providers to see or diagnose pesticide intoxication. It provides a thoroughly researched guide for acute signs and symptoms of pesticide illnesses. One can request a copy for free from the EPA.

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                • Sudakin, D. L., and L. E. Power. 2007. Organophosphate exposures in the United States: A longitudinal analysis of incidents reported to poison centers. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health 70:141–147.

                  DOI: 10.1080/15287390600755224Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                  Dr. Sudakin is a physician and toxicologist who has summarized the national data on pesticide illnesses reported to poison control centers from various parts of the United States.

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                  Cancer

                  The most authoritative reviews of cancer and pesticides in humans and laboratory animals are by the World Health Organization’s, International Agency for Research on Cancer 1986, and International Agency for Research on Cancer 1991. An extensive review of the pesticides used in the Gulf War (particularly OPs) and their cancer risks was undertaken by the Institute of Medicine 2003. The most critical cancer studies linking specific pesticide products and risks of malignancy are published by the Agricultural Health Study (AHS), a joint project of the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, and the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States. AHS is a prospective follow-up study since 1993, of cancer mortality and tumor incidence among approximately ninety thousand licensed pesticide applicators and their spouses from the American states of North Carolina and Iowa. Weichenthal, et al. 2010 reviewed the AHS study evidence and noted that positive exposure-response patterns were reported for twelve pesticides currently registered in North America: alachlor, aldicarb, carbaryl, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, dicamba, S-ethyl-N, N-dipropylthiocarbamate, imazethapyr, metolachlor, pendimethalin, permethrin, trifluralin. Alavanja, et al. 2013 found that pesticide exposure was linked with the following adult tumor sites: prostate, nonHodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, and breast cancers. Infante-Rivard and Weichenthal 2007 reviewed the pediatric cancer literature and links with pesticide exposure. Their research examined childhood leukemia, brain cancer, neuroblastoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Wilms’ tumor, and Ewing’s sarcoma, and found many elevated risks related to parental exposures or childhood exposures to pesticides. See also Bassil, et al. 2007.

                  • Alavanja M. C., M. K. Ross, and M. R. Bonner. 2013. Increased cancer burden among pesticide applicators and others due to pesticide exposure. CA Cancer Journal for Clinicians 63:120–142.

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                    These scientists, drawing from AHS and other workplace studies, examined the epidemiological, molecular biology, and toxicological evidence, and placed pesticide exposure into a broader public health and cancer risk framework.

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                    • Bassil, K. L., C. Vakil, M. Sanborn, et al. 2007. Cancer health effects of pesticides: Systematic review. Canadian Family Physician 53:1704–1711.

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                      The authors have compiled a thorough review of the cancer and pesticides literature up to 2007. This paper will assist physicians who concerned about the role of pesticides if their patients have a cancer diagnosis.

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                      • Infante-Rivard, C., and S. Weichenthal. 2007. Pesticides and childhood cancer: An update of Zahm and Ward’s 1998 review. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B: Critical Reviews 10:81–99.

                        DOI: 10.1080/10937400601034589Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                        The authors of this review chronicled the published pediatric cancer and pesticide literature up to 2007.

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                        • Institute of Medicine. 2003. Cancer and exposure to insecticides. In Gulf War and health: Vol. 2. Insecticides and solvents. 98–155. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

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                          The Institute of Medicine is the authoritative body advising the US military, and this chapter contains an exhaustive review of the pesticide and cancer literature, but only examines the chemical products used during the Gulf War. Available online.

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                          • National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute. Agricultural Health Study.

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                            The Agricultural Health Study website is a gateway to all published research studies on cancer among the farmers and their spouses in North Carolina and Iowa. This website and associated manuscripts is the place to begin an examination of the current cancer (and other diseases) literature.

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                            • Weichenthal, S., C. Moase, and P. Chan. 2010. A review of pesticide exposure and cancer incidence in the Agricultural Health Study cohort. Environmental Health Perspectives 118:1117–1125.

                              DOI: 10.1289/ehp.0901731Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                              The authors of this review have summarized the Agricultural Health Study findings (up to 2010) and documented the lines of investigation related to cancer risk.

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                              • World Health Organization. 1986. Some halogenated hydrocarbons, and pesticide exposures. Vol. 41. International Agency for Research on Cancer. Lyon, France: World Health Organization.

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                                The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) conducted the most thorough international review of cancer related to pesticide exposure (up to 1986). IARC reviews are considered the most authoritative reviews of the cancer risks of any organization in the world.

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                                • World Health Organization. 1991. Occupational exposures in insecticide application, and some pesticides. Vol. 53. International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France: World Health Organization.

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                                  IARC conducts the most thorough review up to 1991 of cancer related to pesticide exposure. However, there is a crying need for an update on this topic as a guide for cancer risks related to pesticide chemicals.

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                                  Nervous System

                                  Some pesticides directly affect both the peripheral and central nervous systems of humans. The Institute of Medicine 2003 undertook a thorough review of pesticide chemicals used during the Gulf War in 1990–1991. Brown, et al. 2006 reviewed the published literature related to Parkinson’s disease and Parkinsonian syndrome and pesticide exposure. Franco, et al. 2010 examined the epidemiology and toxicology evidence for links between Parkinson’s disease and exposure to pesticides, with a focus on paraquat—a commonly used herbicide. Allen and Levy 2013 examined the epidemiology literature and showed a significantly elevated meta-analysis risk for Parkinson disease for both occupational and non-occupational pesticide exposure. Santibáñez, et al. 2007 studied associations with pesticide exposures and Alzheimer’s disease. Chronic neurological illnesses and pesticide exposure studies are an area that is ripe for new research.

                                  • Allen M. T., and L. S. Levy. 2013. Parkinson’s disease and pesticide exposure—a new assessment. Critical Reviews in Toxicology 43:515–534.

                                    DOI: 10.3109/10408444.2013.798719Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                    The authors found that both occupational herbicide and occupational insecticide exposures showed significant associations with Parkinson’s disease. Furthermore, the results of their meta-analysis suggest a positive association between Parkinson’s disease and pesticide exposure.

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                                    • Brown, T. P., P. C. Rumsby, A. C. Capleton, L. Rushton, and L. S. Levy. 2006. Pesticides and Parkinson’s disease: Is there a link? Environmental Health Perspectives 114:156–164.

                                      DOI: 10.1289/ehp.8095Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                      The authors have summarized the literature linking Parkinson’s disease and pesticide exposure, but it needs to be updated.

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                                      • Franco, R., S. Li, H. Rodriguez-Rocha, M. Burns, and M. I. Panayiotidis. 2010. Molecular mechanisms of pesticide-induced neurotoxicity: Relevance to Parkinson’s disease. Chemico-Biological Interactions 188.2: 289–300.

                                        DOI: 10.1016/j.cbi.2010.06.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        This paper provides an excellent review of the biochemical processes of pesticide neurotoxicity.

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                                        • Institute of Medicine. 2003. Neurologic effects. In Gulf War and health: Vol. 2. Insecticides and solvents. 350–449. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

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                                          This chapter contains a critical review of the pesticide and nervous system literature, but only examines the chemical products used in the Gulf War in 1990–1991. Available online.

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                                          • Santibáñez, M., F. Bolumar, and A. M. García. 2007. Occupational risk factors in Alzheimer’s disease: A review assessing the quality of published epidemiological studies. Occupational Environmental Medicine 64.11: 723–732.

                                            DOI: 10.1136/oem.2006.028209Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                            The authors of this paper have assessed the links (up to 2007) between pesticide exposures and Alzheimer’s disease, including dementia.

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                                            Reproductive Health Effects

                                            The seminal work of biologist Rachel Carson (Carson 2002) alerted the public and the scientific community to the serious reproductive impacts on many species of birds from excess use of DDT and other chlorinated pesticides during the 1940s and 1950s. The current concern is for pesticide-related birth defects, spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, low birth weight infants, delays to conception, undescended testes, and other noncancer effects on fetuses. Because many pesticides are suspected of disrupting normal endocrine function as well as impacting reproductive capacity, EPA 2009 lists sixty-seven active ingredients (many of which are pesticides) in the Endocrine Disrupter Screening Program. Orton, et al. 2011 studied 134 commonly used pesticides in Europe, and 14 were judged to be androgen receptor antagonists based on structure-activity characteristics. Hanke and Jurewicz 2004 reviewed the epidemiological literature on reproductive health effects associated with occupational pesticide exposure. Frazier 2007 reviewed the epidemiologic evidence of reproductive disorders linked with pesticide exposure. Sathyanarayana, et al. 2010 found evidence of decreased birth weight related to maternal exposure to carbaryl in the Agricultural Health Study cohort. Sever, et al. 1997 cataloged several pesticides known to be male reproductive toxicants that are no longer registered in the United States, including kepone, dibromochloropropane (DBCP), and ethylene dibromide. EPA/NIEHS 2014 jointly support critical new pesticide research on children through twelve university-based Children’s Environmental Health Centers. Because of the very sizable populations living near intensive agricultural production areas in many parts of the developed and developing world, this is likely to be an expanding area of public health interest and research in the future.

                                            • Carson, R. 2002. Silent Spring. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

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                                              Originally published in 1962, this powerful book completely upset the scientific world when originally published, and led to a ban in most industrial nations of DDT and other chlorinated pesticides by the 1970s. Its strongest impact related to the evidence Ms. Carson found that documented DDT’s impact on birds, fish, and other wildlife.

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                                              • EPA/NIEHS. 2014. EPA/NIEHS Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers (CEHCs).

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                                                The joint EPA/NIEHS national program is spearheading the most thorough examination of the impacts of pesticide exposure on the health and behavior of children. There is particular emphasis on pesticide exposures among the children of California farmworkers and on children of low income families in New York City.

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                                                • Frazier, L. M. 2007. Reproductive disorders associated with pesticide exposure. Journal of Agromedicine 12:27–37.

                                                  DOI: 10.1300/J096v12n01_04Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                  This paper addresses the reproductive effects from exposure to pesticide chemicals as of 2007.

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                                                  • Hanke, W., and J. Jurewicz. 2004. The risk of adverse reproductive and developmental disorders due to occupational pesticide exposure: an overview of current epidemiological evidence. International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health 17:223–243.

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                                                    This review provides an overview of developmental and reproductive impacts related to pesticide exposure, but it needs to be updated.

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                                                    • Orton, F., E. Rosivatz, M. A. Scholze, and A. Kortenkamp. 2011 February 10. Widely used pesticides with previously unknown endocrine activity revealed as in vitro anti-androgens. Environmental Health Perspective 119.6: 794–800.

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                                                      The authors of this paper review the evidence linking endocrine disruption and pesticide exposure.

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                                                      • Sathyanarayana, S., O. Basso, C. J. Karr, et al. 2010. Maternal pesticide use and birth weight in the Agricultural Health Study. Journal of Agromedicine 15:127–136.

                                                        DOI: 10.1080/10599241003622699Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        The authors of this review examined the impacts of pesticide exposure and birth weight.

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                                                        • Sever, L. E., T. E. Arbuckle, and A. Sweeney. 1997. Reproductive and developmental effects of occupational pesticide exposure: The epidemiological evidence. Occupational Medicine State of the Art Reviews 12:305–325.

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                                                          Dr. Sever is a very well known investigator with a long career of assessing the biological impacts on reproductive health related to pesticide exposure.

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                                                          • US Environmental Protection Agency. 2009. Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program.

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                                                            This EPA program and website is the place to go to find pesticide chemicals and their impacts on the endocrine system for both humans and animals.

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                                                            Dermatology and Skin Cancer Risks

                                                            Skin ailments are the most common occupational illnesses in agriculture, and Spiewak 2001 explains how dermal exposure occurs when agricultural workers mix, load, apply, or handle pesticide products without appropriate skin or facial protection. Most pesticide-related dermatoses are contact dermatitis, either allergic or irritant. Mothemela 2010 described the most common pesticides linked with skin diseases, including captofol, folpet, captan, sulfur, paraquat, propargite, and arsenic containing products. Data from Dennis, et al. 2010 showed that melanoma risk doubles from exposure to maneb/mancozeb, parathion, and carbaryl. Frost, et al. 2011 reported that nonmelanoma skin cancer risk was elevated among the approximately sixty-three thousand licensed pesticide users in Great Britain. One intriguing research issue is whether there is any relationship between prior cases of pesticide-linked dermatitis and subsequent development of either melanoma or nonmelanoma skin cancer.

                                                            Information Specifically For Businesses, Lawyers, and Commercial Entities

                                                            Readers seeking information on specific pesticide products should contact the manufacturer and seek out the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). If the product is manufactured for use in the United States, there should be an MSDS for that product. Returning to the Tempo insecticide product, if we put “Tempo MSDS” into a search engine, it will lead us to the Bayer Crop Science’s Material Safety Data Sheet for Tempo 1% Dust (Bayer Crop Science 2002). The Bayer Crop Science 2002 MSDS lists the health effects and ecological impacts, plus recommendations on first aid, personal protection, storage of the product, and disposal of the container. There are a variety of online sources relevant to businesses interested in commercial aspects of pesticides. Crop Life America (CLA) is a national association that represents pesticide manufacturers, and it has a good deal of information about pesticide chemicals. Before CLA adopted its current name in 2002, it was known as the National Agricultural Chemicals Association. CLA provides lobbying activities and works with pesticide companies when there are regulatory issues of relevance before the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies. Those interested in investments in pesticide manufacturing companies should consider the assessments of Worldwide Crop Chemicals by Rojas. She ranks the following as the top ten of multinational pesticide chemical companies in the world: Bayer (Germany), 19 percent; Syngenta (Switzerland),19 percent; BASF (Germany), 11 percent; Dow AgroSciences (USA),10 percent; Monsanto (USA), 9 percent; DuPont (USA), 6 percent; Makhteshim Agan (Israel), 5 percent; Nufarm (Australia), 4 percent; Sumitomo Chemical (Japan), 3 percent; and Arysta Lifescience (Japan), 3 percent. The Agricultural Container Recycling Council (ACRC) is a business organization that encourages the reuse of pesticide containers. The National Agronomic Environmental Health and Safety School (a nonprofit entity) provides training for all pesticide professionals concerned with responding to pesticide release events in production agriculture. It is also a source for pesticide regulations for those businesses in the pesticide treatment arena. The nonprofit National Pest Management Association (NPMA) represents residential and commercial pesticide application companies in the United States. NPMA’s mission is to provide business, education, lobbying skills, and information on behalf of pesticide spraying firms. The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) is an advocacy group whose mission is to act as an umbrella organization for other organizations wishing to share health information and other toxicology data about pesticide chemicals. PAN maintains product-specific databases and international regulations of relevance to individual consumers and other public health organizations. Enserink, et al. 2013 examines some of the key product development and international public health issues related to biochemistry of new pesticide products of particular interest are papers on plant immune systems, pesticides and wildlife ecotoxicology, and the discovery of new agrochemicals. This is a superb place to understand where the next generation of more intelligent pest control products will emerge.

                                                            Integrated Pest Manangment (IPM)

                                                            Integrated pest management, or “IPM” as it is often referred to, is an ecological approach to solving pest problems while minimizing risks to people and the environment. IPM can be used to manage all kinds of pests in urban communities, agricultural settings, and wildland or natural park areas. IPM uses the disciplines of entomology, pest control, plant pathology, and sustainable ecology to control the impacts of pest populations. Guides for using IMP include those issues from the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program such as: pest identification; monitoring and assessing pest numbers and crop damage; guidelines for when management action is needed; preventing pest problems; using a combination of biological, cultural, physical/mechanical, and chemical management tools. As a management approach, IPM emphasizes knowledge of the pest(s) and uses a variety of biological approaches to control the impact of pests, including judicious use of pesticide chemicals as well as common-sense controls such as use of screens in urban locations. IPM is supported by the US Environmental Protection Agency and by the US Department of Agriculture, including the state cooperative extension programs. The North American IPM Institute acts as an information clearinghouse and as a nexis for both public and private sectors to share current information about applied IPM programs. There is information about IPM for schools and departments of education from the California Schools Integrated Pest Management Program. The application of IPM approaches addressing invasive alien plants and animals is addressed by the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture.

                                                            Information for Advocacy Groups Geared to Protect Farmworkers and Communities

                                                            The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP) has been a long-time leader in providing programs towards minimizing pesticide exposure. It works with migrant health clinics in many parts of the United States where migrant farmworkers are integral to local agriculture. The Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) and United Farmworkers of America (UFW) are two labor unions with strong advocacy on behalf of farmworkers. Both organizations have extensive information in Spanish about pesticide health and pesticide protections. Farmworker Justice has been a national lobbying group on behalf of farm laborers, with a particular focus on pesticide protection and health effects topics.

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