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Introduction: Studies have documented high levels of pesticide exposure among men farmworkers; however, few have examined exposures or the experiences of women farmworkers. Data gaps also exist regarding farmworkers’ perceived risk and control related to pesticides, information that is critical to develop protective interventions.

Objective: We aimed to compare urinary pesticide biomarker concentrations between Latino and Latina farmworkers and examine associations with occupational characteristics, risk perceptions, perceived control, and protective behaviors.

Methods: We enrolled a convenience sample of 62 farmworkers (30 men and 32 women) during the pesticide spray season from April–July 2022 in southwestern Idaho. Participants were asked to complete two visits within a seven-day period; at each visit, we collected a urine sample and administered a questionnaire assessing demographic and occupational information. Urine samples were composited and analyzed for 17 biomarkers of herbicides and of organophosphate (OP) and pyrethroid insecticides.

Results: Ten pesticide biomarkers (TCPy, MDA, PNP, 3-PBA, 4-F-3-PBA, cis- and trans-DCCA, 2,4-D, Glyphosate, AMPA) were detected in >80% of samples. Men and women had similar urinary biomarker concentrations (p = 0.19–0.94); however, women worked significantly fewer hours than men (p = 0.01), wore similar or greater levels of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and were slightly more likely to report having experienced an Acute Pesticide Poisoning (26% of women vs. 14% of men; p = 0.25). We observed inconsistencies in risk perceptions, perceived control, and protective behaviors among men.

Discussion: Our study is one the first to examine pesticide exposure and risk perceptions among a cohort of farmworkers balanced on gender. Taken with previous findings, our results suggest that factors such as job tasks, biological susceptibility, or access to trainings and protective equipment might uniquely impact women farmworkers’ exposure and/or vulnerability to pesticides. Women represent an increasing proportion of the agricultural workforce, and larger studies are needed to disentangle these findings.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.