Online Program

Public Perception of Pesticide Exposure in Vermont

Monday, November 2, 2015

Pierre Galea, University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, VT
Nicholas Bonenfant, University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, VT
Ayse Celebioglu, University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, VT
Bridget Colgan, University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, VT
Lucas Grover, University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, VT
Joshua Weaver, University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, VT
Linda Boccuzzo, MS, Agrichemical & Pesticide Regulatory Program, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, Montpelier, VT
Heidi Hales, PhD, Vermont Department of Health, Burlington, VT
Razelle Hoffman-Contois, MS, Vermont Department of Health, Burlington, VT
Thomas V. Delaney, PhD, Pediatrics, UVM College of Medicine, Burlington, VT
Jan K. Carney, MD, MPH, Medicine, Robert Larner MD College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, Burlington, VT
Introduction. Pesticides include chemicals and biological agents used to prevent, destroy, or mitigate pests.  Overexposure may cause acute and chronic health effects.  Studies indicate varying levels of public awareness and knowledge of exposure sources and health risks. It is vital to gauge knowledge and perceptions to identify areas for improved communication and outreach.

Methods. A 22-question survey was developed to assess Vermonters’ perception, exposure, and demographics, and was distributed at 6 locations in Vermont (n=240).  10% of surveys were randomly selected for quality control.  Data were analyzed using Excel, GraphPad, and Fisher’s exact test. 

Results. Of the 240 respondents, 48% were male and 52% were female. 81% had an undergraduate degree or higher. 37% were 18-44yr and 64% were 45yr or older. 93% reported using pesticide-containing products, although only 29% of respondents indicated self-reported pesticide exposure in the last year. Food ranked first for greatest personal source (33%) and perceived risk (31%) of pesticide exposure.  More women than men were concerned/very concerned about the health effects from exposure (p=0.0031). Of respondents, 31% were confident in their healthcare professional’s knowledge about pesticide exposure; only 10% were confident in their personal knowledge.

Conclusions. The vast majority of Vermonters (93%) reported using pesticides while only 29% reported pesticide exposure. Given disparity between public use and perception, further education of the public about sources of pesticides, health risks, and precautions is essential.  Increasing healthcare professionals’ knowledge and discussions with patients about pesticide use could complement public education strategies, and be used in other locations.

Learning Areas:

Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Environmental health sciences
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe public perception of pesticide exposure and health-related risks. Discuss prevalence of pesticide use in a Vermont population. Formulate public education strategies to increase knowledge about pesticide use and potential risks.

Keyword(s): Environmental Health, Prevention

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was involved in the design, implementation, data collection, analysis and interpretation, writing, and presentation of this project.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.