OBJECTIVES: We used community-based ethnography and public health risk assessment to assess beliefs about pesticide exposure risks among farmworkers in the Lower Yakima Valley of Washington State. METHODS: We used unstructured and semistructured interviews, work-site observation, and detailed field notes to gather data on pesticide exposure risks from 99 farmworkers. RESULTS: Farmworkers' pesticide-relevant beliefs and attitudes could be grouped into 5 major themes: (1) dry pesticides are often perceived as a virtually harmless powder, (2) farmworkers who identify themselves as allergic to pesticides are more acutely affected by exposure, (3) the effect of pesticide exposure is more severe for those perceived as physically weak, (4) protective equipment is used selectively in response to financial pressure to work rapidly, and (5) some farmworkers delay decontamination until they find water deemed an appropriate temperature for handwashing. CONCLUSIONS: We elucidated farmworkers' pesticide-relevant beliefs regarding perceived danger and susceptibility to pesticides, the need to put safety second to financial considerations, and reasons for delaying decontamination. Researchers and policymakers should incorporate these data in study designs and legislation concerned with farmworker exposure to pesticides.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health