Open Access Research article

Work-related pesticide poisoning among farmers in two villages of Southern China: a cross-sectional survey

Xujun Zhang12*, Weiyan Zhao2, Ruiwei Jing3, Krista Wheeler2, Gary A Smith24, Lorann Stallones5 and Huiyun Xiang24

Author Affiliations

1 Southeast University Injury Prevention Research Institute, Southeast University, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China

2 Center for Injury Research and Policy, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH, USA

3 School of Public Health, Southeast University, Nanjing, Jiangsu, China

4 The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus, OH, USA

5 Colorado Injury Control Research Center, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2011, 11:429  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-429

Published: 3 June 2011



Pesticide poisoning is an important health problem among Chinese farm workers, but there is a paucity of pesticide poisoning data from China. Using the WHO standard case definition of a possible acute pesticide poisoning, we investigated the prevalence and risk factors of acute work-related pesticide poisoning among farmers in Southern China.


A stratified sample of 910 pesticide applicators from two villages in southern China participated in face-to-face interviews. Respondents who self-reported having two or more of a list of sixty-six symptoms within 24 hours after pesticide application were categorized as having suffered acute pesticide poisoning. The association between the composite behavioral risk score and pesticide poisoning were assessed in a multivariate logistic model.


A total of 80 (8.8%) pesticide applicators reported an acute work-related pesticide poisoning. The most frequent symptoms among applicators were dermal (11.6%) and nervous system (10.7%) symptoms. Poisoning was more common among women, farmers in poor areas, and applicators without safety training (all p < 0.001). After controlling for gender, age, education, geographic area and the behavioral risk score, farmers without safety training had an adjusted odds ratio of 3.22 (95% CI: 1.86-5.60). The likelihood of acute pesticide poisoning was also significantly associated with number of exposure risk behaviors. A significant "dose-response" relationship between composite behavioral risk scores calculated from 9 pesticides exposure risk behaviors and the log odds of pesticide poisoning prevalence was seen among these Chinese farmers (R2 = 0.9246).


This study found that 8.8% of Chinese pesticide applicators suffered acute pesticide poisoning and suggests that pesticide safety training, safe application methods, and precautionary behavioral measures could be effective in reducing the risk of pesticide poisoning.

China; pesticide poisoning; farmers; occupational poisoning