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Jan. 31, 2005

Pesticide blood-testing rule expands to cover more workers

TUMWATER — More agricultural workers in Washington will be covered by a blood-testing program designed to detect the effects of farm chemicals that can cause illness. Starting Feb. 1, workers who handle certain pesticides for 30 or more hours in any consecutive 30-day period must participate in a cholinesterase-monitoring program, compared with last year’s threshold of 50 or more hours. The 30-hour threshold was phased in over two years to make it easier for farmers to adjust to the new requirements.

The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) reviewed the data from workers tested in 2004 and concluded that test results do not provide a reason to delay the planned change to the 30-hour threshold. L&I, in consultation with both a scientific and a stakeholder advisory committee, will continue to monitor the data and may make adjustments next year.

Regular exposure to certain chemicals can cause a decline in the level of cholinesterase, which is needed for proper functioning of the nervous system. The cholinesterase-monitoring rule requires employers to record all hours that a worker handles (mixes, loads, applies) organophosphate or carbamate pesticides with the words “DANGER” or “WARNING” on the label. Starting in February, workers who handle these pesticides for 30 or more hours in any 30-day period must participate in a cholinesterase-monitoring program, which includes:

  • A discussion with a health care provider;
  • A decision by the worker to participate or not to participate in the blood testing;
  • An annual baseline blood test prior to exposure to these pesticides;
  • Periodic blood tests when handling pesticides for 30 hours or more in a 30-day period.

Another change this year requires employers to report each pesticide handler’s hours to the health care provider at the time of each follow-up test. Employers no longer need to send that information to L&I. A new form and complete information about the rule in English and Spanish are at www.LNI.wa.gov/Safety/Topics/AtoZ/Cholinesterase or from the nearest L&I office.

Agricultural employers will have an opportunity to learn about cholinesterase and other safety and health issues at the first annual Agriculture Safety Day on March 9, 2005, at the Yakima Convention Center. More information will be mailed to agricultural employers next month.

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

Broadcast version:

More agricultural workers will be covered by a blood-testing program designed to detect the effects of handling farm pesticides that can cause illness. Starting Feb. 1, workers who handle certain pesticides for 30 or more hours in a 30-day period must participate in a cholinesterase-monitoring program. That’s compared to last year’s threshold of 50 or more hours. The 30-hour threshold was phased in over two years to make it easier for farmers to adjust to the new requirements. Complete information for workers and employers in English and Spanish is available on the L&I web site at www.LNI.wa.gov or by calling your local L&I office.

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