July 14, 1997
Survey of European Agricultural Workers
Results from a survey of agricultural workers in Europe show
that these workers need improved training in pesticide use as
well as ongoing health surveillance. At least one respondent
in five reported that they have been poisoned or adversely
affected by pesticides. The European Federation of
Agricultural Workers (EFA) commissioned PAN Belgium to
conduct the survey of EFA members' concerns about pesticide-
related issues. PAN Belgium received and analyzed over 1,230
individual replies. The Federation has approximately two
million members in fifteen countries of the European Union.
The survey shows that workers are poisoned by pesticides
before, during and after application. Seventy three percent
of the incidents reported in the survey occurred during
mixing, loading and application of pesticides (application
accounted for 39%). The remaining 27% of incidents occurred
after pesticides were applied -- for example, through
handling contaminated equipment after use or re-entering
sprayed areas. Symptoms most often reported by workers were
headaches (67%), skin irritation (39%), stomach pains (33%),
vomiting (30%), eye irritation (25%) and diarrhea (15%).
Among those poisoned, 53% informed their employer but only
27% informed the appropriate government authorities (workers
often found difficult it to identify the agency responsible).
In 46% of cases, workers who were poisoned required medical
intervention, either a consultation or hospital visit.
Approximately 77% of the workers' surveyed stated that
personal protective equipment is generally available, but
only 35% reported that they were using the equipment at the
time of a reported incident. Eighty-eight percent of the
respondents said that they had received training in proper
use of pesticides; however, 54% had received only one day or
less of training.
In March 1997, The European Federation of Agricultural
Workers held its second colloquium on the health and safety
of pesticides in Almeria, Spain. Resolutions from European
member unions called for:
-- Recognition of the hidden costs of pesticides due to
health and safety hazards for users.
-- Action to press the agrochemical industry to finance a
permanent occupational health research and surveillance
-- Inclusion of the principles of democracy, transparency,
precaution and sustainability in European laws and
initiatives related to pesticides.
-- Action by EFA to promote safer and ecologically sound
agricultural products and practices.
Source: Pesticide News 36, June 1997. (The quarterly journal
of The Pesticides Trust.)
Contacts: EFA, Rue Fosse-aux-loups, 38-Bte 8, B-1000
The Pesticides Trust, Eurolink Centre, 49 Effra Road, London
SW2 1BZ, UK; phone (44-171) 274 8895; fax (44-171) 274 9084;
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