The N.C. Employment Security Commission estimated in 2004 that more than 21,000 migrant and seasonal farmworkers were employed in these counties during peak harvest, accounting for 25 percent of the migrant and seasonal workers in the state.
As part of the study, mothers were interviewed to learn more about risk factors for exposure. Researchers learned that 40 percent of mothers and 30 percent of fathers were employed in farmwork, but had not received pesticide training, which would violate Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. Three in five children lived in households in which farmworkers did not shower immediately after work and four in five lived in households in which workers changed their clothes in the dwelling.
In a separate study, in-depth interviews were conducted with 41 Latino women in farmworker households in five North Carolina counties (Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, and Watauga) and three counties in Virginia (Smyth, Grayson and Carroll). The goal was to learn more about the women’s knowledge and perceptions about pesticides.
In general, participants considered smell the most important aspect of pesticides.
“They therefore took few protective measures beyond avoiding or eliminating the smell,” wrote the authors. “They did not realize that pesticides and residues often have no detectable odor.”
Nearly one-third of the women thought of pesticides as contagious or exposure as an infection. Some mothers allowed their children in the fields, believing that as long as they didn’t touch the crops, they weren’t at risk of exposure.
“Their perceptions and behavior differ from scientific understanding of how to limit exposure and result in behaviors that may increase children’s risk of exposure and health problems,” said Arcury.
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