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Acute illnesses associated with pesticide exposure at schools — United States, 1998-2002

Walter A. Alarcon, MD MSc and Geoffery M. Calvert, MD, MPH. NIOSH/CDC, CDC-NIOSH, 4676 Columbia Parkway, MS R-17, Cincinnati, OH 45226, 513-841-4451, wda7@cdc.gov

Background: No national assessment of the hazards associated with pesticide use at schools has been previously undertaken. We assessed the national magnitude and severity of illnesses associated with pesticide exposures at schools, and identified activities and pesticides associated with these illnesses. Methods: Individuals with pesticide poisoning associated with exposure to pesticides at schools were identified from the Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risks–Pesticides Program (SENSOR) and the Toxic Exposure Surveillance System (TESS). Duplicate reports were excluded. The case definition for pesticide poisoning for each surveillance system requires information on pesticide exposure, health effects, and evidence supporting an association between the exposure and the health effect. Results: Between 1998 and 2002, school pesticide exposures produced illnesses in 2,096 individuals. Most illnesses occurred among individuals younger than 18 years old (68%). The pesticide functional classes associated with most illnesses were disinfectants (32%), insecticides (30%), repellents (14%), and herbicides (8%). One hundred ninety (9%) of 2,096 individuals had illnesses of moderate severity. Detailed information was available only in SENSOR data. Of the 325 illnesses reported by SENSOR, 166 (51%) were work-related. Pesticide drift onto school facilities from applications to neighboring land accounted for 75 (23%) of these 325 illnesses and the remainder were related to pesticide use at schools. Conclusions: We identified many individuals with acute illness associated with pesticide exposures at schools. Many illnesses can be prevented by implementing integrated pesticide management control practices, and establishing restricted pesticide application (buffer) zones around schools to prevent pesticide drifts from neighboring fields.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the session, the participant in this session will be able to

Keywords: Pesticide Exposure, School Health

Related Web page: N/A

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Integrating Occupational and Environmental Health

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA