<italic>Media Contacts: Veda Federighi (916) 445-3974 or Glenn Brank
Kathy Brunetti, Agriculture Program Supervisor
California Department of Pesticide Regulation
830 KStreet, Sacramento, California, USA 95814
voice (916) 324-4100, FAX (916) 324-4088, email@example.com
<italic>February 2, 1999 (99-04)
</italic>DPR RELEASES ANNUAL PESTICIDE ILLNESS REPORT
SACRAMENTO --Cal/EPA's Department of Pesticide Regulation today
released an annual pesticide illness report that showed 1,580 potential
or confirmed cases of pesticide illness in 1996, down slightly from the
About 56 percent -- 884 illness reports -- were non-agricultural,
while 696 reports involved pesticide use in agricultural settings.
("Pesticide" is a general term for substances that kill or control
pests. Pesticides include insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides,
disinfectants, and sanitizers.)
Among fieldworkers, illness reports continued a downward trend that
spans nearly a decade. In 1996, DPR identified 137 fieldworker
illnesses with a confirmed or potential link to pesticide exposure.
Fieldworker illnesses have averaged 157 a year from 1989 through 1996.
That compares to an average of 282 fieldworker illnesses annually
between 1982 and 1988.
Between the 1988 and 1989 growing seasons, DPR took action against
three pesticides that accounted for a disproportionate share of
fieldworker illnesses. The insecticide phosalone was taken off the
U.S. market by its manufacturer after DPR sharply limited its use in
California. Then, after a series of fieldworker illnesses caused by
exposure to methomyl and propargite, DPR mandated longer waiting
periods between pesticide applications and when workers could reenter
"The decline in field worker illnesses since 1989 has continued long
enough to provide evidence of a real change, as measured by statistical
test," said DPR Director James W. Wells. "Nonetheless, we continue our
efforts to reduce them even more."
DPR is conducting an intensive review of fieldworker illness cases to
identify problems that still need to be addressed. DPR scientists will
examine factors like the months of highest risk, the counties and crops
where cases occur, the formulations and ingredients of the pesticide
products involved, and the types of health effects experienced by
California's Pesticide Illness Surveillance Program is generally
acknowledged as the nation's best. Data generated from the illness
reports has made DPR's worker protection program a model for other
states, said Wells.
"While the Pesticide Illness Surveillance Program doesn't detect every
pesticide-related incident, these reports help us identify major trends
in pesticide illness, and when appropriate, fine-tune safety rules to
provide an additional margin of safety," said Wells.
"Our goal is to ensure that any pesticide available in California is
used safely, and millions of pesticide applications occur every year
without incident," said Wells. "At the same time, this annual report
serves as a reminder that pesticides should be applied strictly
according to label instructions."
From 1995 to 1996, illnesses with a potential or confirmed link to
pesticide exposure dropped from 1,593 to 1,580. There were 884
non-agricultural illnesses (down from 937 in 1995), and 696
agricultural illnesses (up from 656 the previous year). A single drift
incident in Kern County accounted for 243 of the agriculture illnesses
The Kern County incident occurred when a crop duster sprayed a cotton
field next to a vineyard where hundreds of harvesters were working. In
the following weeks, at least 243 of the harvesters received medical
exams. Most reported non-specific symptoms such as headache, nausea,
and eye irritation. DPR fined the application company $60,000,
suspended the pest control license of the company's owner for nine
months, suspended the pilot's applicator license for six months, and
required additional training and supervision for all company workers.
Acting to forestall such incidents, DPR also initiated strict
enforcement against drift and worked with the pesticide applicator
industry to promote better training. In 1997, DPR issued a Pesticide
Drift Enforcement Policy to better define drift and summarize
regulatory standards, and elements of this policy will be codified in
regulations now being developed by DPR.
DPR also has begun a more general initiative, the Pesticide Workplace
Evaluation Program. It will provide training in industrial hygiene and
occupational safety for county agricultural commissioner staff.
Under state law, county agricultural commissioners are the local
enforcement agents for pesticide laws and regulations. They investigate
all pesticide-related illnesses or injuries reported in their counties.
DPR specialists then analyze each case to determine how likely a factor
pesticide exposure was in causing the illness. In 1996, these
specialists classified 1,088 cases as definitely or probably related to
pesticide exposure, and another 492 where the circumstances suggested a
possible relationship to pesticide exposure. There were an additional
remaining 551 cases reported to the Department classified as unlikely
to be related or as unrelated to pesticide exposure, based on
For a copy of the report and a brochure describing the illness
surveillance program, contact DPR's Worker Health and Safety Branch,
1020 N Street, Room 200, Sacramento 95814, phone (916) 445-4222. The
report and tables presenting different aspects of the data can also be
downloaded from the publications section of DPR's Web site
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