Personal air sampling and risks of inhalation exposure during atrazine application in Honduras

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Abstract

Purpose

To assess occupational inhalation exposure to the herbicide atrazine during pesticide application in a developing country.

Methods

Personal air samples were collected during atrazine application using a personal sampling pump equipped with an OSHA Versatile Sampler (OVS-2) sorbent tube. Samples were collected from 24 pesticide applicators in Honduras. Application was observed during sampling, and a survey was completed in the home.

Results

Fourteen of the 24 participants used pump backpack sprayers to apply atrazine and 10 used tractor/boom systems. Despite applying about 15 times as much atrazine, the tractor/boom participants (11.5 μg/m3) had only slightly higher (not statistically significant) time-weighted averages (TWA) than participants using backpack sprayers (9.6 μg/m3). Within the backpack sprayer group, those that used a cone spray nozzle (11.54 μg/m3) had nearly double the TWA than applicators using a flat spray nozzle (5.98 μg/m3; P = 0.04). In the tractor/boom group, the participants that rode on the boom or the back of the tractor monitoring nozzles (15.0 μg/m3) had almost double the average TWA than tractor drivers (8.0 μg/m3; P = 0.097).

Conclusions

Since tractor/boom pesticide application decreases the number of man-hours required to apply pesticides, and does not increase inhalation exposure significantly, it decreases the overall population occupational exposure. Monitoring nozzles on booms from a distance rather than on the back of a tractor or boom may decrease or eliminate inhalation exposure. Use of flat spray nozzles for herbicide application among pump backpack sprayers may reduce their inhalation exposure.