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Dec. 4, 2003

Blood-testing rule adopted for pesticide workers

TUMWATER -- The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has adopted a new regulation that requires employers to provide blood testing for agricultural workers who handle certain pesticides. L&I began this rulemaking last year
as the result of a Washington State Supreme Court decision. The rule was adopted Dec. 3 and becomes effective Feb. 1, 2004.

Blood testing for cholinesterase, an enzyme critical to the function of the nervous system, can assist in the identification and prevention of worker exposure to pesticides. Certain pesticides interfere with the function of
cholinesterase by causing it to decrease. Without the normal protective effects of cholinesterase, various nerves in the body are overstimulated to the point of exhaustion, leading to symptoms ranging from blurred vision, diarrhea and tremors to seizures, loss of consciousness and even death.

The new rule applies to employers of agricultural pesticide handlers who use such pesticides as Guthion, Supracide, Cygon, Sevin, Vydate, Temik and similar products which are known as toxicity category I or II organophosphate or N-methyl-carbamate cholinesterase-inhibiting pesticides.

Among the requirements of the rule are provisions that require employers to keep records of the hours employees spend handling these pesticides, to provide training regarding the new requirements, to make blood testing available to pesticide handlers, to remove employees from working with these pesticides when medically necessary, and to protect an employee's wages and benefits for up to three months if the blood tests identify potentially harmful cholinesterase depression.

L&I is offering workshops to assist employers in complying with the new rule:

* Mt. Vernon: Dec. 16, 1:30 to 4 p.m., Best Western CottonTree Inn, 2300 Market St.

* Okanogan: Jan. 6, 1:30 to 4 p.m., Cedars Inn, One Apple Way

* Moses Lake: Jan. 7, 1:30 to 4 p.m., L&I office, 3001 W. Broadway Ave.

* Yakima: Jan. 8, 1:30 to 4 p.m., L&I office, 15 W. Yakima Ave., Suite 100

* Kennewick: Jan. 9, 9:30 a.m. to noon, Red Lion Hotel - Columbia Center, N. 1101 Columbia Center Blvd.

* Bellingham: Jan. 22, 9:30 a.m. to noon, L&I office, 1720 Ellis St., Suite 200

Space at the workshops is limited, so please reserve a seat by calling
800-574-2829 or 360-902-5590, or e-mail to workshopsched@LNI.wa.gov.

Separate workshops for pesticide workers and health-care providers are
planned for January, February and March 2004. For complete information on
the new rule, please see the L&I web site at www.LNI.wa.gov/wisha or call 800-423-7233.

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For media information: Elaine Fischer, L&I, 360-902-5413 or nele235@LNI.wa.gov


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