• Article

Assessment of a pesticide exposure intensity algorithm in the agricultural health study

The accuracy of the exposure assessment is a critical factor in epidemiological investigations of pesticide exposures and health in agricultural populations. However, few studies have been conducted to evaluate questionnaire-based exposure metrics. The Agricultural Health Study (AHS) is a prospective cohort study of pesticide applicators who provided detailed questionnaire information on their use of specific pesticides. A field study was performed for a subset of the applicators enrolled in the AHS to assess a pesticide exposure algorithm through comparison of algorithm intensity scores with measured exposures. Pre- and post-application urinary biomarker measurements were made for 2,4-D (n = 69) and chlorpyrifos (n = 17) applicators. Dermal patch, hand wipe, and personal air samples were also collected. Intensity scores were calculated using information from technician observations and an interviewer-administered questionnaire. Correlations between observer and questionnaire intensity scores were high (Spearman r = 0.92 and 0.84 for 2,4-D and chlorpyrifos, respectively). Intensity scores from questionnaires for individual applications were significantly correlated with post-application urinary concentrations for both 2,4-D (r = 0.42, p < 0.001) and chlorpyrifos (r = 0.53, p = 0.035) applicators. Significant correlations were also found between intensity scores and estimated hand loading, estimated body loading, and air concentrations for 2,4-D applicators (r-values 0.28–0.50, p-values<0.025). Across all chlorpyrifos applicators, body loading measurements were significantly correlated with intensity scores from questionnaires (r=0.50, p=0.039) but not from observations (r=0.18, p=0.482). Dermal measures for in-furrow granular applications of chlorpyrifos (n = 12) were very low and not correlated with intensity scores. A linear regression model indicated that the algorithm factors for individual applications explained 24% of the variability in post-application urinary 2,4-D concentration, which increased to 60% when the pre-application urine concentration was included. The results of the measurements support the use of the algorithm for estimating questionnaire-based exposure intensities in the AHS for liquid pesticide products. Refinement of the algorithm may be possible using the results from this and other measurement studies.


Thomas, K., Dosemeci, M., Coble, J. B., Hoppin, J. A., Sheldon, L. S., Chapa, G., ... Knott, C. (2010). Assessment of a pesticide exposure intensity algorithm in the agricultural health study. Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, 20(6), 559-569. DOI: 10.1038/jes.2009.54

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