Open Access Study protocol

Biological monitoring of pesticide exposures in residents living near agricultural land

Karen S Galea1*, Laura MacCalman1, Kate Jones2, John Cocker2, Paul Teedon3, Anne J Sleeuwenhoek1, John W Cherrie1 and Martie van Tongeren1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Occupational Medicine, Riccarton, Edinburgh, UK

2 Health and Safety Laboratory, Buxton, UK

3 School of Engineering and the Built Environment, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:856  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-856

Published: 10 November 2011

Abstract

Background

There is currently a lack of reliable information on the exposures of residents and bystanders to pesticides in the UK. Previous research has shown that the methods currently used for assessing pesticide exposure for regulatory purposes are appropriate for farm workers [1]. However, there were indications that the exposures of bystanders may sometimes be underestimated. The previous study did not collect data for residents. Therefore, this study aims to collect measurements to determine if the current methods and tools are appropriate for assessing pesticide exposure for residents living near agricultural fields.

Methods/design

The study will recruit owners of farms and orchards (hereafter both will be referred to as farms) that spray their agricultural crops with certain specified pesticides, and which have residential areas in close proximity to these fields. Recruited farms will be asked to provide details of their pesticide usage throughout the spray season. Informed consenting residents (adults (18 years and over) and children (aged 4-12 years)) will be asked to provide urine samples and accompanying activity diaries during the spraying season and in addition for a limited number of weeks before/after the spray season to allow background pesticide metabolite levels to be determined. Selected urine samples will be analysed for the pesticide metabolites of interest. Statistical analysis and mathematical modelling will use the laboratory results, along with the additional data collected from the farmers and residents, to determine systemic exposure levels amongst residents. Surveys will be carried out in selected areas of the United Kingdom over two years (2011 and 2012), covering two spraying seasons and the time between the spraying seasons.

Discussion

The described study protocol was implemented for the sample and data collection procedures carried out in 2011. Based on experience to date, no major changes to the protocol are anticipated for the 2012 spray season although the pesticides and regional areas for inclusion in 2012 are still to be confirmed.