Agriculture is a major economic sector in Indonesia. Chemical pesticides are widely being used in agriculture for the control of the pest. There is a growing concern that pesticide exposure, particularly chlorpyrifos (CPF) exposure combined with other occupational characteristics that determine the level of exposure, can lead to further health impacts for farmers. Our objective was to evaluate the cumulative exposure characteristics among farmers exposed to CPF using a validated algorithm.
We conducted a cross-sectional study of 152 vegetable farmers aged 18-65 who actively used CPF for at least one year in Central Java, Indonesia. Subject characteristics were obtained using a structured interviewer-administered questionnaire addressed for sociodemographic and work-related characteristics. The cumulative exposure level (CEL) was measured as a function of the intensity level of pesticide exposure (IL), lifetime years of pesticide use and the number of days spraying per years. CEL then classified into two groups, high and low exposure group. The difference in characteristics of the study population was measured using Chi-square, independent-t or Mann-Whitney test. Association between CEL and its characteristics variables were performed by multiple linear regression.
Seventy-one subjects (46.7%) were classified as the high exposure group. The use of multiple pesticide mixtures was common among our study population, with 94% of them using 2 or more pesticides. 73% reported direct contact with pesticides, and over 80% reported being splashed or spilt during preparation or spraying activity. However, we found that the proportion of proper personal protective equipment (PPE) use in our subjects was low. Higher volume of mixture applied (p < 0.001) and broader acres of land (p = 0.001) were associated with higher cumulative exposure level, while using the long sleeve and long trousers (p < 0.05) during pesticide spraying were associated with lower cumulative exposure after adjusted for age and gender.
These findings indicate a lack of knowledge and understanding of the proper use of pesticides. Thus, we recommend comprehensive training on pesticide use and encourage proper PPE to reduce the exposure level.