Acute Pesticide-Related Illness Among Emergency Responders, 1993-2002

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BackgroundEmergency responders are among the first to arrive at a pesticide-related release event. Magnitude, severity, and risk factor information on acute pesticide poisoning among those workers is needed.MethodsSurvey data collected from the SENSOR-Pesticides, CDPR and HSEES programs between 1993 and 2002 from 21 states were reviewed. Acute occupational pesticide-related illness incidence rates for each category of emergency responder were calculated, as were incidence rate ratios (IRR) among emergency responders compared to all other workers employed in non-agricultural industries.ResultsA total of 291 cases were identified. Firefighters accounted for 111 cases (38%), law enforcement officers for 104 cases (36%), emergency medical technicians for 34 cases (12%), and 42 cases (14%) were unspecified emergency responders. Among the 200 cases with information on activity responsible for exposure, most were exposed while performing activities related to a pesticide release event (84%) and not involving patient care, while the remainder involved exposure to pesticide-contaminated patients. A majority of cases were exposed to insecticides (51%). Most had low severity illnesses (90%). The incidence rate was highest for firefighters (39.1/million) and law enforcement officers (26.6/million). The IRRs were also elevated for these professions (firefighters, IRR = 2.67; law enforcement officers, IRR = 1.69).ConclusionsThe findings suggest the need for greater efforts to prevent acute occupational pesticide-related illness among emergency responders.

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