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Exposure to Pesticides in Schools Produces Illnesses Among Employees, Students

The number of school children getting affected by illnesses due to exposure to //pesticides have increased significantly, from the figures of 1998 to 2002, reports a research in the recent issue of JAMA.

“Exposure to pesticides in the school environment is a health risk facing children and school employees,” background information in the article states. Pesticides continue to be used both on and around school property, with some schools at risk of pesticide exposure from neighboring farms. Currently, no specific federal requirements on limiting pesticide exposures at schools exist. In the U.S. today, pesticide poisoning is often under diagnosed.

Walter A. Alarcon, M.D., from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cincinnati, and colleagues examined 1998 – 2002 data from 2,593 people with acute pesticide-related illnesses associated with school exposure. Cases were included if illness developed after exposure to pesticide and illness was consistent with known toxicology of the pesticide.

The overall annual rates of new cases for 1998 – 2002 was 7.4 cases per million children, and was 27.3 cases per million school employee (adult) full-time equivalents. New case rates among children increased significantly from 1998 to 2002. Three cases (.1 percent) of high severity were found, 275 cases (11 percent) of moderate severity, and 2,315 cases (89 percent) of low severity were found. The majority of illnesses reported were associated with insecticides (n = 895, 35 percent), disinfectants (n = 830, 32 percent), repellents (n = 335, 13 percent), or herbicides (n = 279, 11 percent). Of 406 cases with detailed source information, 281 (69 percent) were associated with pesticides used at schools and 125 (31 percent) were associated with pesticide drift from farmland.

“These findings indicate that pesticide exposures at schools continue to produce acute illnesses
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