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Farmers’ Exposure to Pesticides: Toxicity Types and Ways of Prevention
Synthetic pesticides are extensively used in agriculture to control harmful pests and prevent crop yield losses or product damage. Because of high biological activity and, in certain cases, long persistence in the environment, pesticides may cause undesirable effects to human health and to the environment. Farmers are routinely exposed to high levels of pesticides, usually much greater than those of consumers. Farmers’ exposure mainly occurs during the preparation and application of the pesticide spray solutions and during the cleaning-up of spraying equipment. Farmers who mix, load, and spray pesticides can be exposed to these chemicals due to spills and splashes, direct spray contact as a result of faulty or missing protective equipment, or even drift. However, farmers can be also exposed to pesticides even when performing activities not directly related to pesticide use. Farmers who perform manual labor in areas treated with pesticides can face major exposure from direct spray, drift from neighboring fields, or by contact with pesticide residues on the crop or soil. This kind of exposure is often underestimated. The dermal and inhalation routes of entry are typically the most common routes of farmers’ exposure to pesticides. Dermal exposure during usual pesticide handling takes place in body areas that remain uncovered by protective clothing, such as the face and the hands. Farmers’ exposure to pesticides can be reduced through less use of pesticides and through the correct use of the appropriate type of personal protective equipment in all stages of pesticide handling.