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Release: March 10, 2000

UI researchers to study pesticide exposure in farm families

IOWA CITY, Iowa — As part of a national study, researchers are working to learn more about farmers' exposure to pesticides. The study will begin this spring in 12 Iowa counties. Local farmers who apply pesticides to crops may be asked to enroll in the study, which UI scientists say will help provide important information about keeping farm families healthy when pesticides are used.

Researchers will select potential participants based on the types of products used and their application methods. Iowa counties included in the study are Cedar, Clinton, Grundy, Henry, Jackson, Jasper, Jones, Louisa, Marshall, Muscatine, Tama and Washington.

Farmers who enroll in the study will be asked to allow UI researchers to observe their usual pesticide handling and application procedures for one day. Farmers also will be asked to provide non-invasive samples (such as dermal patch, hand wipe and urine samples) so that researchers can measure their exposure to the pesticide. Spouses and children may be asked to provide urine samples, as well. The names of all participants will be kept confidential. Individuals enrolled in the study will receive a small cash incentive for their participation.

This study builds on the Agricultural Health Study under way in Iowa and North Carolina, which is intended to evaluate relationships between exposures of pesticide applicators and their health status. Of the more than 90,000 participants in the Agricultural Health Study, more than 50,000 are from Iowa. A subset of these participants will be asked to take part in this exposure measurement study. Measurement results will help researchers assess and improve methods used to classify farmers' exposure to pesticides.

"Our goal is to measure farmers' exposure to pesticides without much interruption of their usual daily activities and without risk or discomfort when collecting samples," said Steve Reynolds, Ph.D., UI associate professor of occupational and environmental health. "With the generous cooperation of some local farm families, we may be able to learn more about how pesticide exposure occurs, and what we can do to prevent it."

The Agricultural Health Study is a collaborative effort of the University of Iowa College of Public Health, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and the National Exposure Research Laboratory of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. For more information, contact Reynolds at (319) 335-4212.