Wake Forest Investigators Receive State Funds To Produce Spanish-Language Video on Pesticide Safety

April 16, 2001

Using state money from the Pesticide Environmental Trust Fund, Wake Forest University School of Medicine investigators will produce a Spanish-language educational video on pesticide safety aimed at North Carolina farm workers.

The project''s principal investigator, Thomas A. Arcury, Ph.D., received a check for the first $35,000 for the project today from Meg Scott Phipps, N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture.

"Farm workers can be exposed to a variety of pesticides as they move from crop to crop," said Arcury, research director and associate professor of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Wake Forest.

He said the health effects of pesticide exposure can begin immediately and include rashes, headaches, nausea, vomiting -- and death. Long-term health problems -- cancer, neurological problems and reproductive problems -- also may result.

"Only one-third of farm workers we surveyed reported ever having received pesticide safety information," he said. "Many farm workers, when asked about exposure routes, protection methods, and their right to a safe work place, provided inaccurate or no information."

He said the video, which will also have English subtitles so the farm employers can understand it, is aimed at filling a knowledge gap and will be tailored to North Carolina.

"Existing education materials often emphasize material more useful to pesticide handlers than to field workers, do not explain why certain protective actions are important and often suggest preventive steps that are out of the control of farm workers," Arcury said.

He noted that lack of knowledge was a major conclusion of the first phase of the PACE Project (Preventing Agricultural Chemical Exposure among North Carolina Farmworkers), a

project directed by himself and Sara A. Quandt, Ph.D., and involving a partnership of Wake Forest, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the N.C. Farmworkers'' Project.

The federally financed PACE study, paid for by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, was recently renewed for another five years.

Arcury noted that the composition of the N.C. farm worker population has changed dramatically. Until the late 1980s, most were African-American. Today, only 10 percent are African American and most of the rest are Latino, hence the need for Spanish-language training.

"In North Carolina, farm workers perform hand work on a variety of crops, including tobacco, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, apples and Christmas trees," he said. "Each of these crops is treated with different pesticides during the growing season."

Beside pesticides, the video also will talk about steps to prevent green tobacco sickness, an acute disorder caused by direct exposure to growing tobacco.

The total budget for this video project is $83,331, with $68,331 from the Pesticide Environmental Trust Fund. In addition to the funds from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the video project also is receiving support from two multinational agribusiness companies that produce agricultural chemicals, Syngenta (Novartis Crop Protection) and Aventis CropScience (cq).


Contact: Robert Conn, Jim Steele or Mark Wright at (336) 716-4587.

Media Relations