Objectives Pesticides are intensively used in Spain in a wide range of economic activities such as agriculture, farming, wood treatments or pest control, reaching in 2005 a consumption of more than 100,000 ton/year. Exposure to these substances has been proven to have negative effects on human health. However, there is little information available regarding the levels and frequency of exposure for workers, or the job titles associated with the worst exposure indicators. This study aimed to collect the available information on occupational pesticide exposure in Spain as a job-exposure matrix (JEM).
Methods The work was carried out in the context of MatEmESp Project, which aims to build a Spanish general JEM for the period 1996–2005. Data from the Finnish JEM (FINJEM), Spanish companies risk assessments and the review of available literature was used to identify exposed occupations and relevant chemical agents in the study period as well as to establish the exposure estimates.
Results Ten active ingredients were selected as reference agents of the study period including fungicides, herbicides and insecticides. Of the 482 occupations in the Spanish job coding system, 45 were identified as exposed, with sufficient information to establish the exposure estimates. Regarding fungicides and herbicides, 39 occupations showed a low level of exposure whereas 6 were found to have a medium level. Within insecticides, a low exposure was found in 19 occupations while 26 showed a medium level.
Conclusions This is the first systematic collection of the available data on occupational exposure to pesticides in Spain following the JEM development methodology. Although low availability of measurements reduced the accuracy of the estimates established, they can be useful for epidemiological studies and health and safety management programs, amongst other uses. All collected data as well as the exposure estimates established can be found in the MatEmESp website (www.matemesp.org).
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