Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 626–632 | Cite as

Female Farmworkers’ Perceptions of Pesticide Exposure and Pregnancy Health

  • Joan Flocks
  • Maureen Kelley
  • Jeannie Economos
  • Linda McCauley
Original Paper


Occupational pesticide exposure may be hazardous to pregnant farmworkers, yet few studies have focused on the health of female farmworkers distinct from their male counterparts or on the impact of agricultural work tasks on pregnancy outcomes. In the current community-based participatory research study, researchers conducted five focus groups with female nursery and fernery workers in Central Florida to enhance knowledge of attitudes about occupational risks and pregnancy health and to gather qualitative data to help form a survey instrument. This article presents the results from questions focused on pesticide exposure and its impact on general, reproductive, pregnancy, and fetal health. Workers reported a belief that pesticide exposure could be hazardous to pregnancy health; descriptions of symptoms and health concerns believed to be related to farmwork and to pesticide exposure; and descriptions of barriers preventing them from practicing safer occupational behaviors.


Farmworkers Pesticides Reproductive health Focus groups 



This research is supported by funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health R21OH009830.


  1. 1.
    Bureau of Labor Statistics. Household data: employed persons in agriculture. Available at; 2008.
  2. 2.
    Department of Labor. Findings from the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) (2001–2002). A demographic and employment profile of United States farm workers. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Office of Programmatic Policy, Research Report No. 9. Available at; 2005.
  3. 3.
    Slesinger DP, Christenson BA, Cautley E. Health and mortality of migrant farm children. Soc Sci Med. 1986;23:65–74.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Curtis KM, Savitz DA, Weinberg CR, Arbuckle TE. The effect of pesticide exposure on time to pregnancy. Epidemiology. 1999;10:112–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Abell A, Juul S, Bonde JP. Time to pregnancy among female greenhouse workers. Scand J Work Environ Health. 2000;26:131–6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Idrovo AJ, Sanin LH, Cole D, Chavarro J, Caceres H, Narvaez J, Restrepo M. Time to first pregnancy among women working in agricultural production. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2005;78:493–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Bretveld RW, Hooiveld M, Zielhuis GA, Pellegrino A, van Rooij IA, Roeleveld N. Reproductive disorders among male and female greenhouse workers. Reprod Toxicol. 2008;25:107–14.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    McDonald AD, McDonald JC, Armstrong B, Cherry NM, Cote R, Lavoie J, Nolin AD, Robert D. Fetal death and work in pregnancy. Br J Ind Med. 1988;45:148–57.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Savitz DA, Whelan EA, Kleckner RC. Self-reported exposure to pesticides and radiation related to pregnancy outcome—results from National Natality and Fetal Mortality Surveys. Public Health Rep. 1989;104:473–7.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Thomas DC, Petitti DB, Goldhaber M, Swan SH, Rappaport EB, Hertz-Picciotto I. Reproductive outcomes in relation to malathion spraying in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1981–1982. Epidemiology. 1992;3:32–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Restrepo M, Munoz N, Day N, Parra JE, Hernandez C, Blettner M, Giraldo A. Birth defects among children born to a population occupationally exposed to pesticides in Colombia. Scand J Work Environ Health. 1990;16:239–46.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Zhang J, Cai WW, Lee DJ. Occupational hazards and pregnancy outcomes. Am J Ind Med. 1992;21:397–408.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Levario-Carrillo M, Amato D, Ostrosky-Wegman P, Gonzalez-Horta C, Corona Y, Sanin LH. Relation between pesticide exposure and intrauterine growth retardation. Chemosphere. 2004;55:1421–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Whyatt RM, Rauh V, Barr DB, Camann DE, Andrews HF, Garfinkel R, Hoepner LA, Diaz D, Dietrich J, Reyes A, Tang D, Kinney PL, Perera FP. Prenatal insecticide exposures and birth weight and length among an urban minority cohort. Environ Health Perspect. 2004;112:1125–32.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Nurminen T, Rantala K, Kurppa K, Holmberg PC. Agricultural work during pregnancy and selected structural malformations in Finland. Epidemiology. 1995;6:23–30.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Garcia-Rodriguez J, Garcia-Martin M, Nogueras-Ocana M, de Dios Luna-del-Castillo J, Espigares Garcia M, Olea N, Lardelli-Claret P. Exposure to pesticides and cryptorchidism: geographical evidence of a possible association. Environ Health Perspect. 1996;104:1090–5.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Weidner IS, Moller H, Jensen TK, Skakkebaek NE. Cryptorchidism and hypospadias in sons of gardeners and farmers. Environ Health Perspect. 1998;106:793–6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Carbone P, Giordano F, Nori F, Mantovani A, Taruscio D, Lauria L, Figa-Talamanca I. The possible role of endocrine disrupting chemicals in the aetiology of cryptorchidism and hypospadias: a population-based case-control study in rural Sicily. Int J Androl. 2007;30:3–13.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Garry VF, Schreinemachers D, Harkins ME, Griffith J. Pesticide appliers, biocides, and birth defects in rural Minnesota. Environ Health Perspect. 1996;104:394–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Shaw GM, Wasserman CR, O’Malley CD, Nelson V, Jackson RJ. Maternal pesticide exposure from multiple sources and selected congenital anomalies. Epidemiology. 1999;10:60–6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Engel LS, O’Meara ES, Schwartz SM. Maternal occupation in agriculture and risk of limb defects in Washington State, 1980–1993. Scand J Work Environ Health. 2000;26:193–8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Kristensen P, Irgens LM, Andersen A, Bye AS, Sundheim L. Birth defects among offspring of Norwegian farmers, 1967–1991. Epidemiology. 1997;8:537–44.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Blanco Munoz J, Lacasana M, Borja Aburto VH, Torres Sanchez LE, Garcia AM, Lopez Carrillo L. Socioeconomic factors and the risk of anencephaly in a Mexican population: a case–control study. Public Health Rep. 2005;120:39–45.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Alexander FE, Patheal SL, Biondi A, Brandanse S, Cabrera ME, Chan LC, Chen Z, Cimino G, Cordoba JC, Gu LJ, Hussein H, Ishii E, Kamel AM, Labra S, Magalhaes IQ, Mizutani S, Petridou E, de Oliveira MP, Yuen P, Wiemels JL, Greaves MF. Transplacental chemical exposure and risk of infant leukemia with MLL gene fusion. Cancer Res. 2001;61:2542–6.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Borkhardt A, Wilda M, Fuchs U, Gortner L, Reiss I. Congenital leukaemia after heavy abuse of permethrin during pregnancy. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2003;88(5):F436–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Shaffer CF. Factors influencing the access to prenatal care by Hispanic pregnant women. J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2002;14:93–6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Schneider B. Providing for the health needs of migrant children. Nurse Pract. 1986;11:54–65.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Lander F, Hinke K. Indoor application of anti-cholinesterase agents and the influence of personal protection on uptake. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 1992;22:163–6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Hoekstra EJ, Kiefer M, Tepper A. Monitoring exposure of benomyl in nursery workers. J Occup Environ Med. 1996;38:775–81.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Smith S, Swisher ME, Shehan C. Targeting women in agribusiness. J Ext. 1990; 28. Available at
  31. 31.
    Mayer B, Flocks J, Monaghan P. The role of employers and supervisors in promoting pesticide safety behavior among Florida farmworkers. Am J Ind Med. 2010;53:814–24.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Bracht N, Finnegan JR Jr, Rissel C, Weisbrod R, Gleason J, Corbett J, Veblen-Mortenson S. Community ownership and program continuation following a health demonstration project. Health Educ Res. 1994;9:243–55.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Israel BA, Schulz AJ, Parker EA, Becker AB. Review of community based research: assessing partnership approaches to improve public health. Annu Rev Public Health. 1998;19:173–202.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Arcury TA, Quandt SA, Dearry A. Farmworker pesticide exposure and community-based participatory research: rationale and practical applications. Environ Health Perspect. 2001;109(Suppl 3):429–34.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Flocks J, Clarke L, Albrecht S, Bryan C, Monaghan P, Baker H. Implementing a community-based social marketing project to improve agricultural worker health. Environ Health Perspect. 2001;109(Suppl 3):461–8.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Perilla JL, Wilson AH, Wold JL, Spencer L. Listening to migrant voices: focus groups on health issues in South Georgia. J Commun Health Nurse. 1998;15:251–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Napolitano M, McCauley L, Beltran M, Philips J. Dynamic process of focus groups with migrant farmworkers: the Oregon experience. J Immigr Health. 2002;4:177–82.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Winslow WW, Honein G, Elzubeir MA. Seeking Emirati women’s voices: the use of focus groups with an Arab population. Qual Health Res. 2002;12:566–75.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Flocks J, Monaghan P, Albrecht S, Bahena A. Florida farmworkers’ perceptions and lay knowledge of occupational pesticides. J Commun Health. 2007;32:181–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joan Flocks
    • 1
  • Maureen Kelley
    • 2
  • Jeannie Economos
    • 3
  • Linda McCauley
    • 2
  1. 1.Center for Governmental Responsibility, Levin College of LawUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of NursingEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Farmworker Association of FloridaApopkaUSA

Personalised recommendations