A National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study claims that agricultural workers face the greatest risk from airborne drift of pesticides. Soo-Jeong Lee, et al., “Acute Pesticide Illnesses Associated with Off-Target Pesticide Drift from Agricultural Applications—11 States, 1998-2006,” Environmental Health Perspectives, June 6, 2011. Researchers collected data on pesticide drift, which includes off-target movement of sprays, volatile chemicals and contaminated dust, from Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.
Stating that the study’s purpose was to “estimate the incidence of acute illnesses from pesticide drift from outdoor agricultural applications,” researchers examined recorded cases of illness from 1998 through 2006 resulting from workplace exposure. Of those cases, agricultural workers accounted for more than 70 percent. Other exposures occurred in non-agricultural occupational settings, non-occupational settings or in residential areas. Aerial application accounted for nearly one-fourth of the cases and was the method most frequently associated with pesticide drift events.