Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Occupational and Environmental Health
Thomas M. Cook
Wayne T. Sanderson
Background : Atrazine is an agricultural herbicide used extensively in corn production worldwide. Atrazine is an endocrine disruptor and has been linked to many other deleterious health outcomes. Exposure assessment studies have been carried out in Iowa among farm and non-farm populations. However, commercial pesticide applicators have been left out of those studies. Atrazine is also used in developing countries in grain production. In developing countries there is great concern about acute pesticide poisonings, but chronic exposure to less acutely toxic pesticides has not been studied extensively. This study assessed the in-home contamination of atrazine among commercial pesticide applicators in Iowa and then quantitatively analyzed these results with results from similar studies. Occupational inhalation exposure to atrazine was also assessed in Honduras.
Methods : Dust samples were taken from 29 commercial pesticide applicator households in four different locations. This sampling was done once during the atrazine application season and again six months later during winter months to assess atrazine persistence. Occupational and household characteristics were analyzed for associations with atrazine dust levels. Data from two previous studies that analyzed farm and non-farm household dust samples for atrazine were combined with data from the commercial applicator's homes. This new and larger dataset was analyzed to identify which population has the greatest risk for take-home atrazine exposure and what determinants were associated with in-home atrazine dust levels. Lastly, corn production practices in Honduras were evaluated and personal air samples were taken from pesticide applicators during atrazine application to assess inhalation exposure.
Results : The first study found that atrazine levels persist into the winter months in the homes of commercial applicators. Atrazine handling (days, pounds, and acres sprayed) were all positively associated with in-home atrazine levels. Commercial applicators that change their shoes inside had higher atrazine levels. More frequent floor cleaning was associated with lower atrazine levels. The second study identified commercial applicators' homes as the most contaminated compared with farmers who apply atrazine to their own land, farmers who hire out atrazine application, and non-farm homes. Farmers that apply their own atrazine also had significantly higher atrazine levels in their homes. The association between atrazine handling and household atrazine levels was highly significant in this study (p < 0.001). In Honduras, atrazine is applied to corn fields with tractor/boom equipment and manual backpack sprayers. Despite applying about one-fifteenth the amount of atrazine, backpack sprayers are exposed to nearly equal amounts of atrazine via inhalation exposure and likely have greater exposure via the dermal route. Among backpack sprayers, which type of spray nozzle used is associated with inhalation exposure. Among tractor/boom applicators, tractor drivers have much lower inhalation exposure than workers who operate and observe the boom.
Conclusions : The amount of atrazine handled is the most important determinant for predicting in-home atrazine levels in Iowa. Ubiquitous atrazine contamination and its distribution within homes and among household type provide strong evidence for the take-home pathway. While some improvements have been made in Honduras regarding pesticide application, poor farm workers and small farmers still use antiquated pesticide application techniques which leads to a higher risk of inhalation and dermal exposure.
Copyright 2010 Matthew Joiner Lozier