Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Acute Pesticide Poisoning among Cut-Flower Farmers

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Acute Pesticide Poisoning among Cut-Flower Farmers

Article excerpt

Introduction

Much of the research done in the field of occupational health is focused on the service and manufacturing industries, giving very little data on agricultural hazards. The Philippine Department of Labor and Employment, a national agency, has reported that occupational injuries and illnesses were most prevalent in the agricultural sector, at more than 50 percent of the injuries and illnesses occurring in all other industries (Bureau of Working Conditions, 2002). The aim of the study reported here was to look at risk factors associated with increased pesticide exposure as well as pesticide-related health problems. The data will be used for the formulation of an integrated program on safety and health in the cut-flower industry.

The Philippines, which is a tropical country, are not conducive for growing certain vegetables and cut flowers, which require a cooler climate. The Philippine province of Benguet, however, is situated at a high altitude and thus is able to meet most of the vegetable and cut-flower needs of the country. The great demand for vegetables and fruits in modernizing and industrializing Manila, which is the capital city, has enabled the province to focus on meeting this demand. Benguet province produces 70 percent of the total vegetable needs of the country and has earned the name Salad Bowl of the Philippines. It is also called the Strawberry Country and, more recently, the cut-flower producer of the Philippines. According to Cheng (1994), "since 1986, the vegetable industry has maintained a yearly contribution of more or less 3.2 billion pesos to the Gross Domestic Product of the Cordillera Administrative Region (GDP-CAR). Forty percent, or 1.2 billion pesos, of this contribution comes from crucifers and leafy vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, pechay, womboc, or Chinese cabbage" (p. 1969). Along with this agricultural success, however, pesticide use has increased.

The study reported here was conducted among cut-flower farmers in La Trinidad. This municipality grows cut flowers such as roses, chrysanthemums, angel's breath, and anthurium, accounting for a 50-billion-peso industry. The heavy use of pesticides has, however, posed a risk to the health of the farmers (Lu, 2005). The first and second phases of the study showed that 19 percent of respondents reported an illness associated with pesticides, and 32 percent were symptomatic. The illness of the farmers was associated with certain risk factors, such as farm use of pesticides for the past 12 months, exposure to pesticides during application, and inhalation of pesticide vapors and mists (p = .05). Other risk factors included re-entering recently sprayed farms, wiping sweat off the face with a contaminated piece of fabric, and spills on bodies during application of pesticides (p = .05). Symptoms included eye pain, dizziness, and respiratory problems.

Methodology

The first phase of the study was conducted in four barangays (local communities) that were heavy pesticide users: Bahong, Alapang, Tawang, and Ambiong. The study looked into the work practices of farmers and their ambient-air exposure to pesticides. The second phase consisted of a survey questionnaire given to 52 households that comprised 114 respondents in Sadag, a barangay of Bahong. The survey looked into physical illnesses that might be associated with pesticide exposure as well as other significant risk factors. The third phase of the study focused on 102 farmers from the same set of 114 participants. In coordination with barangay officials, a predetermined set of respondents were assembled at a specified area and underwent comprehensive, one-on-one physical and laboratory examinations, including blood extraction for red-blood-cell cholinesterase levels, complete blood count, and kidney and liver function tests. Studies have shown that organophosphates cause a depression in cholinesterase activity that decreases neuromuscular function, manifesting in paralysis (Hernandez et al. …

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