Introduction Chlopyrifos organophosphorous pesticides (OPs) are regularly applied for protection of the cotton crop in Egypt. OP absorption subsequent to dermal exposure has been estimated to be 94%–96% of the total dose. Legs and lower body parts are the most affected during cotton pesticide applications. Pesticides residues on the cotton plants also contaminate clothing and uncovered arms or legs of the applicators as they pass. Protective equipment is not readily available in Egypt. This pilot study was conducted to determine if wearing plastic coverings over pants or changing work practices could reduce pesticide exposure among Egyptian pesticide workers.
Methods A controlled intervention study included:
protective clothing (plastic pants modelled by the workers and staff who participated in 4 educational focus groups);
spray away (instructions were provided to spray away form the workers’ path);
control (followed routine work practices).
Exposure was assessed measuring pre- and post-application urinary TCPy levels (3,5,6-trichloro-2-pyridinol), the primary chlorpyrifos metabolite used as a biomarker of absorbed dose. Work activities were recorded throughout the three-day study period.
Results Twenty-four adult workers (n=8 per group) participated in the study. Time spent applying (range 15–36 min) and mixing (range 10–12 min) pesticides varied between groups and job categories. Other than the pants group, none of the workers had protective clothing. Spraying away did not produce consistent results. Average TCPy levels of the protective clothing group were lower compared to the other two groups, though the differences were not statistically significant (p>0.05).
Conclusion Work habits, time spent applying or mixing pesticides and environmental conditions (e.g., wind direction) are important exposure determinants of urinary TCPy levels. However, use of protective clothing covering legs and lower parts of the body would reduce skin contamination, a major route of pesticide exposure.
Work was supported by NIEHS grants ES017223 and ES016308.
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