Pesticides on Farms

Limited Capability Exists to Monitor Occupational Illnesses and Injuries Gao ID: PEMD-94-6 December 15, 1993

Do monitoring systems at the state and federal levels accurately gauge the nature and the extent of illnesses linked to pesticide exposure on farms? GAO found that a number of federal and state reporting systems, surveys, and other data sources provided some information on acute pesticide-related illnesses in the United States. Except for special research studies, however, none address delayed onset or chronic health effects. Moreover, except for the California state monitoring system, all are quite limited in coverage, comprehensiveness, and data quality. As a result, the national incidence or prevalence of pesticide illnesses in American agriculture cannot be determined. Without a valid and reliable means of monitoring, there is no way to spot problems that may arise with the use of different pesticides or to determine whether risk assessment and management practices successfully prevent hazardous exposure.

GAO found that: (1) although numerous federal and state systems provide information on acute pesticide-related illnesses, none address delayed or chronic health effects and all but one are limited in scope and information quality; (2) the national incidence of pesticide illnesses that occur in the farm sector could not be determined because of a lack of sufficient data and monitoring; (3) the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for determining the potential occupational risks of pesticide use in the farm sector, developing practices to mitigate these effects, and establishing systems to monitor the effectiveness of its mitigation practices; (4) reporting of pesticide-related illnesses is inconsistent and incomplete because EPA relies on informal and voluntary state and local reporting systems and information obtained from national surveys and general data sources; (5) although 25 states have mandatory reporting requirements for occupational pesticide-related illnesses, most states report pesticide-illness information with general disease information; (6) California's monitoring system is the most effective and comprehensive and provides detailed information on pesticide-related illnesses; and (7) pesticide illness underreporting continues to be a serious problem because farmworkers often do not recognize and report illnesses and health care providers are not adequately trained to identify and report pesticide related illnesses.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director: Team: Phone:

The Justia Government Accountability Office site republishes public reports retrieved from the U.S. GAO These reports should not be considered official, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Justia.