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Perceptions of pesticides among farmers and farm family members Nicol, Anne-Marie

Abstract

The spraying of pesticides has been shown to pose a risk not only to applicators, but also to those who live on farms where pesticides are applied. Providing the farming community with the information they need to manage pesticide risks is an important process that requires understanding how this community perceives pesticides. The objective of the research was to describe how farmers and adult farm family members perceive the risks and benefits associated with pesticide use and to describe the practices used by this community to control pesticide exposure. The project used a cross-sectional survey design (telephone survey) and was conducted with a randomly selected sample of 370 farm women and men who grew berries, grapes, and tree fruits in British Columbia. Survey questions were developed using a conceptual framework that included elements of the Precede-Proceed model, Farm Structure model, and the Psychometric Paradigm. Overall, perceptions of pesticide risk were found to be low to moderate in this farming community. Concern was highest for the health of pesticide applicators and lowest for the health of those in nonfarming communities. In multivariable models, the key factors associated with increased perception of pesticide risks included: ethnicity (European descent), attitudes about vulnerability and concern about farm injuries, being knowledgeable about pesticide health risks, having experienced an adverse health effect from pesticides, growing mixed crops, and having a small farm. Regarding exposure control practices, 62% of farms had tried Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques and 63% of pesticide applicators wore personal protective equipment during pesticide application. Only 14% of respondents who washed clothing worn during pesticide application used the laundry practices recommended by the provincial government. Although increased perception of pesticide risk was associated with the use of IPM, other cultural, social and psychometric factors were also found to be significantly associated with this practice, even after controlling for risk perception, including: ethnicity (European descent), trusting the government, increased pesticide knowledge, having experienced an adverse health effect from pesticides, and growing grapes. It is anticipated that the results of this project will be useful for the development of risk communication initiatives for this population.

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