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Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine:
Original Articles: CME

Hazardous Substances Emergency Events in the Agriculture Industry and Related Services in Four Mid-Western States

Berkowitz, Zahava MSc, MSPH; Orr, Maureen F. MS; Kaye, Wendy E. PhD; Haugh, Gilbert S. MS†

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Abstract

Learning Objectives:

* Recognize the seasonality and farming-related factors connected with uncontrolled release of hazardous substances in the agricultural setting.

* Recall the commonest agricultural threats and their clinical sequelae.

* Describe what protective measures presently are in common use, and those that could limit the injurious effects of exposure to hazardous agricultural substances.

Analysis of Hazardous Substances Emergency Events Surveillance data reported from 14 participating states between 1993 and 1998 found that acute releases are seasonal. This seasonality was more prevalent in four Midwestern states during April–June and coincided with their planting season, suggesting an association of these releases with the agricultural industry. A more detailed analysis of events related to this industry in these states found that ammonia was the chemical most frequently released, and ammonia related events resulted in a significantly higher number of evacuations than all other events (OR = 10.7, [5.25–22.28]). A logistic regression model to identify risk factors for an event with victims found an increased risk for: (1) events with ammonia during April–June (adjusted OR = 3.57, [2.09–6.09]); (2) events in fixed-facilities during April–June (aOR = 3.74, [2.01–6.95]); and (3) events with multiple substances (aOR = 2.33, [1.05–5.17]). The most common causes for the events were equipment failure and operator error. Resulting injuries were mainly respiratory, ocular and traumatic, and included six deaths. Employing more stringent safety measures and educating employees and the public about the health hazards involved with agricultural chemicals may reduce injuries and help contain costs associated with the releases.

©2002The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

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