Pesticides play an important role in protecting food supplies and controlling insects and diseases, but they can also be harmful to human health. Exposures to pesticides can cause illness, injury, or poisoning. People who handle pesticides such as agricultural workers and pest control workers are at a greater risk of experiencing a pesticide-related health problem.
Pesticide Poisoning Surveillance
The Nebraska Pesticide Poisoning Surveillance Program tracks work-related pesticide illnesses, injuries, and poisonings. Collecting this information helps determine the magnitude and causes of these health incidents to help protect workers and guide public health prevention efforts. In Nebraska, all pesticide poisonings and illnesses are required to be reported to DHHS by physicians, hospitals, and laboratories within 7 days.
Nebraska is also one of 12 states that conduct pesticide illness and injury surveillance though participation in the SENSOR-Pesticides Program
within the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Pesticide Poisoning Data
According to NIOSH and the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), 34 occupational pesticide illnesses and injuries in Nebraska were reported to poison control centers in 2011. Nebraska has a higher occupational pesticide illness and injury rate when compared to most states. In 2011, Nebraska’s work-related pesticide illness and injury rate was 3.5 cases per 100,000 workers, compared to the U.S. average rate of 2.0.
Top 10 rates of occupational pesticide illnesses and injuries per 100,000 employed persons age 16 years or older, 2011.*
*Reported cases to poison control centers. Source: NIOSH & AAPCC, 2011 Data.
Individuals who come into contact with certain pesticides are at risk for illness, injury, or poisoning. Pesticides can enter the body through the skin, eyes, mouth, or lungs. Exposures over a short period of time, such as during mixing or applying, can result in acute illness or injury. Exposures to small amounts of some types of pesticides over a long period of time can result in chronic poisoning.
While most pesticides are safe if used properly, some pesticides carry a greater human health risk. Acute illness and injury can result in health effects like skin irritation, eye injury, stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, dizziness, headaches, and respiratory problems. Research has shown that chronic exposures to certain pesticides may lead to an increased risk of neurological effects, reproductive disorders, allergic reactions, and cancer.
People who handle pesticides should follow all instructions on the pesticide label and always wear the personal protective equipment (PPE) as indicated on the label. Individuals who suspect that a pesticide illness, injury, or poisoning has occurred should seek medical advice from a doctor or by calling the Nebraska Regional Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension's Pesticide Safety Education Program has several helpful documents related to pesticide safety and exposure prevention.
Managing the Risks of Pesticide Poisoning (UNL Extension) - Detailed publication outlines the risk of pesticide exposure and understanding the signs and symptoms.
Protective Clothing and Equipment for Pesticide Applicators (UNL Extension) -NebGuide about how to choose and properly use personal protective equipment when handling pesticides.
Managing Bedbugs (UNL Extension) - An interactive publication about how to find, manage, and prevent bedbugs.
NIOSH Pesticide Illness and Injury Surveillance (SENSOR-Pesticides Program)
EPA's Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings Handbook
Nebraska Department of Agriculture Pesticide Program
National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC)