Pesticide and Pollutant Exposure

Agricultural machine spraying pesticide on field

WCAHS Pesticide Exposure Research 

WCAHS has a long history of studying pesticide exposure and occupational safety. Pesticides are an essential part of farming but can cause serious health problems if safety precautions are not taken to limit exposure.

WCAHS was instrumental in developing a standardized method to test for pesticide poisoning by measuring blood levels of cholinesterase, an enzyme necessary for nerve and muscle communication that is inhibited by certain types of pesticides. The test was an important factor in establishing cholinesterase monitoring programs for agricultural works in California and Washington.

WCAHS has also been involved in developing rapid assays to detect pesticides in farm- and landscape-workers and to apply these assays to examine exposure levels. These assays are based on using antibodies to quickly determine worker pesticide exposure from their urine samples, similar to how a home pregnancy test is done.

Currently, a major project of WCAHS is studying the use of biosolarization, which relies on solar heat and organic amendments, to kill soil pests as an alternative to using toxic fumigants. WCAHS partners with a number of organizations, such as University of California Integrated Pest Management, that provide pesticide safety education and training.