California Department of Pesticide Regulation
February 15, 2000
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DPR Releases Pesticide Illness Data
SACRAMENTO -- The California Department of Pesticide Regulation today
released statewide pesticide illness data for 1997 and 1998.
The 1997 illness report data showed 1,319 potential or
confirmed cases of pesticide illness, down 16.5 percent from 1996.
The decline continued in 1998, with 998 potential or confirmed
pesticide illnesses reported. In both years, more than half of the
reported illnesses occurred in non-agricultural settings.
A DPR staff analysis found no specific factors to account for
the decline. Statistics from the Pesticide Illness Surveillance
Program vary from year to year, but field worker illnesses have
trended downward since the 1980s.
Illness report data for 1997 and 1998 were finalized after
DPR upgraded computer programs to organize the data. The new system
provides more reporting details on occupation, exposure
circumstances, and equipment involved in accidents. The new system
also records more specific information on pesticide products and
uses. ("Pesticide" is a general term for substances that kill or
control pests. Pesticides include insecticides, herbicides,
rodenticides, disinfectants, and sanitizers.)
In 1997, some 774 illnesses -- about 59 percent -- resulted
from non-agricultural applications, while 545 reports involved
agricultural settings. In 1998, some 632 illnesses (63 percent) were
non-agricultural, while 366 cases involved agricultural pesticides.
Under state law, county agricultural commissioners act as
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
if pesticide exposure played a role in an illness.
State law also requires physicians to report to local health
officers any illness that may be related to pesticide exposure. Such
direct illness reporting allows DPR to investigate cases promptly.
Absent physician reports, DPR identifies possible illnesses through
physician reports to the worker compensation program, although such
reports typically are more than a month old.
DPR began an education and outreach program for physicians in
1994. Only 16 percent of the illnesses investigated that year came
through physician reporting. Since then, physician reporting has
increased. DPR received physician reports for 30 percent of the cases
investigated in 1997.
DPR's illness report data helps identify trends, guide
enforcement activities, and when appropriate, fine-tune safety rules.
For example, the Department has made pesticide drift incidents a
priority, based on illness data collected in recent years. In 1997,
DPR issued a Pesticide Drift Enforcement Policy to better define
drift and summarize regulatory standards. Elements of this policy
will be codified in regulations under development and expected to be
noticed later this year.
In 1998, DPR took action against illegal sales of
insecticidal chalk after a child became ill from eating chalk. In
addition to a public awareness campaign, DPR conducted 31 retailer
inspections in a five-month period and issued 19 violation notices
for sales of the product. DPR also urged the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency to begin a nationwide crackdown on illegal sales of
California's Pesticide Illness Surveillance Program is
generally acknowledged as the nation's best. Data generated from
illness reports has made DPR's worker protection program a model for
other states. The program does not attempt to track every
pesticide-related incident, since unreported illnesses cannot be
For synopses of the 1997 and 1998 data, and a brochure
describing the illness surveillance program, contact DPR's Worker
Health and Safety Branch, 830 K Street, Sacramento CA, 95814-3510;
phone (916) 445-4222. The material can also be accessed from the
publications section of DPR's Web site <www.cdpr.ca.gov>.
One of six departments and boards within Cal/EPA, DPR
regulates the use of pesticides to protect human health and the
For a breakdown of illness statistics by county, please see this
press release on DPR's Web site
or call 916/445-3974 for a fax copy.
Media Contacts: Veda Federighi, Glenn Brank, 916/445-3974
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