Pesticides: Operator safety is paramount

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Source: ScienceDaily

Each year in France, almost 80,000 tons of pesticides are spread over crops. Farmers are often the unintended targets. At Cemagref, innovative research is being carried out to characterise the exposure of professional personnel to pesticides on the basis of surveys and samples from the field.

Farming professionals are the most exposed to pesticides. In France in 2005, they were approximately 800 000 in number. At Cemagref, a goal of the Technologies for farm-equipment safety and performance research unit is to gain knowledge on the exposure of operators to phytosanitary products during their work. For example, in 2006, a major experimental study was launched with the Mutualité Sociale Agricole (agricultural social-insurance fund). The trials focused on apple-tree orchards which require approximately 30 phytosanitary treatments each year. The two goals of the study were to acquire objective data on the phytosanitary exposure and contamination of operators, and to improve the performance of protection cabs used during spraying.

Close tabs on exposure

Sonia Grimbuhler, the project manager, started with a survey on 250 farmers to learn how they use the products and their perception of the risks involved. On the basis of the various typologies identified, she then developed scenarios taking into account the most common practices and those resulting in the greatest contamination.

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