The Environmental Protection Agency is currently reevaluating the risk of occupational exposure to pesticides during its re-registration process. To gather actual field data to refine the risk assessments, Michigan State University and the Michigan Department of Agriculture completed a study in seed corn to determine: 1). hand labor activities during production, 2). time needed to perform each activity, 3). time after pesticide application before re-entering fields to perform those activities, 4). exposure durations while performing each activity, 5). levels of dislodgeable foliar residues during work times, and 6). actual dermal exposure from dislodgeable foliar residues.
Activities documented where exposure can occur were planting, scouting, irrigation, rogueing, detassseling, isolation, certification, and phytosanitary inspections. The time of year and growth stage these activities were conducted were determined, the duration of time it took to perform them per day, week and season was averaged, and the time after application before workers re-entered fields to perform them were calculated. This data resulted in greatly reducing the theoretical risk because actual times were much lower than the assumptions used by EPA in risk assessments. To provide this documentation, this time log records were obtained from over 40 individuals working in over 250 fields. Pesticide application records were obtained from every field to determine re-entry times.
To determine their actual exposure to pesticides, dislodgeable foliar residues were taken from leaf punches, and individuals wore inner and outer whole body dosimeters which were analyzed for residues, along with hand and face washes and neck wipes.
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