Report notes 'limited quality' of training provided by employers
By DAN WHEAT
Overexposure to pesticides caused five orders for temporary work removal of pesticide applicators in Washington in 2012, according to the state Department of Labor and Industries.
All of the applicators were employed in the tree fruit industry in Eastern Washington and handled toxic organophosphate and n-methyl carbamate pesticides, according to a report released Feb. 14.
None of the applicators reported pesticide illness symptoms and none have since state testing began in 2004.
There were no temporary removals in 2011 or 2010 and the uptick in 2012 may have been caused by multiple Pesticide Worker Protection Standard violations, the report states.
A concern "consistently noted during worksite evaluations" was "limited quality" of handler training provided by employers, the report states. Protection standard violations included inadequate training, respiratory protection and personal protective equipment requirements, the report states.
Kirk Mayer, manager of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association in Wenatchee, said he doesn't know of anything else that may have contributed to the increase. As the industry phases out usage of certain pesticides, there may come a time when no one is covered by the monitoring.
Besides five temporary worker removals there were 13 other test results requiring review of employer pesticide handling practices.
Temporary worker removal is triggered by a 30 percent depression in red blood cell cholinesterase or a 40 percent decline in serum cholinesterase. A 20 percent depression requires employer review of pesticide-handling practices.
Cholinesterase is a blood enzyme needed for healthy nervous systems. Depression of cholinesterase in the blood and can lead to nerves being overstimulated to the point of exhaustion, blurred vision, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, loss of consciousness and death, according to the state agency.
Toxicity class I and II cholinesterase inhibiting pesticides handled within the 30 days prior to periodic testing included Lorsban 4E, Guthion and Carzol SP. Sevin 4F, a class III n-methyl-carbamate also was handled.
Farm organizations say the pesticides are safe if administered properly, but environmentalists have been working for years to ban some of them as too dangerous.
One of them, azinphos-methyl, known by the trade name Guthion, is used to control codling moth on apples and pears and is used on cherries. It was banned Sept. 30 by the Environmental Protection Agency. Growers can no longer buy it but are allowed to use up existing supplies through this coming Sept. 30, Mayer said.
Labor and Industries conducted its 2012 cholinesterase monitoring between Jan. 18 and Sept. 16. A total of 307 growing operations and 2,091 pesticide applicators participated in baseline testing.
There were 148 handlers that were tested one more time compared with 186 in 2011 and 257 in 2010. Fewer handlers are hitting a threshold for repeat testing and that's to be expected, Mayer said, as usage of material decreases and applicator scheduling changes. Pest pressure can be another variable, he said.