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Australian work exposures studies: occupational exposure to pesticides
  1. Jasmine Jomichen1,2,
  2. Sonia El-Zaemey1,
  3. Jane S Heyworth2,
  4. Renee N Carey1,
  5. Ellie Darcey1,
  6. Alison Reid1,
  7. Deborah C Glass3,
  8. Tim Driscoll4,
  9. Susan Peters2,
  10. Michael Abramson3,
  11. Lin Fritschi1
  1. 1School of Public Health, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
  2. 2School of Population Health, The University of Western, Crawley, Western Australia, Australia
  3. 3Monash Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, School of Public Health & Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  4. 4Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sonia El-Zaemey; sonia.el-zaemey{at}


Background Pesticides are widely used in some occupational settings. Some pesticides have been classified as carcinogens; however, data on the number of workers exposed to pesticides are not available in Australia. The main aim of this study was to estimate the current prevalence of pesticide exposure in Australian workplaces.

Methods The analysis used data from the Australian Work Exposures Study, a series of nationwide telephone surveys which investigated work-related prevalence and exposure to carcinogens and asthmagens, including pesticides, among current Australian workers. Information about the respondents’ current job and various demographic factors was collected in a telephone interview using the web-based tool OccIDEAS. Workers were considered exposed to pesticides if they reported applying or mixing pesticides in their current job.

Results Of the 10 371 respondents, 410 (4%) respondents were assessed as being exposed to pesticides in the workplace, with exposure being more likely among males, individuals born in Australia, individuals with lower education level and those residing in regional or remote areas. Glyphosate was the most common active ingredient used by workers.

Conclusions This is the first study to describe the prevalence of occupational pesticide exposure in Australia and one of the few recent studies internationally.

  • cross-sectional survey
  • exposure prevalence
  • occupational exposure

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  • Contributors JJ and SE-Z drafted the manuscript and conducted all statistical analysis. LF directed the study and is responsible for its overall design. AR, TD, DCG, RNC, ED, MA and SP were involved in the design of this study. All authors provided feedback on the draft of this manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The AWES-Asthma study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) (number 1056684) and SafeWork Australia. The AWES-Cancer study was supported by NHMRC (number 1003563). LF is supported by fellowships from the NHMRC and Cancer Council Western Australia.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Human Research Ethics Committees of the University of Western Australia and Curtin University.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.