When used properly, pesticides offer a variety of benefits to society. They increase crop production, preserve produce, combat insect infestations, and control exotic species. However, pesticides also have the potential for causing harm. Approximately one billion pounds of pesticide active ingredient are used annually in the U.S., and over 20,000 pesticide products are being marketed in the U.S.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 10,000-20,000 physician-diagnosed pesticide poisonings occur each year among the approximately 3,380,000 U.S. agricultural workers. Agricultural workers, groundskeepers, pet groomers, fumigators, and a variety of other occupations are at risk for exposure to pesticides including fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, rodenticides, and sanitizers.
Surveillance for occupational pesticide-related illness and injury is designed to protect workers by determining the magnitude and underlying causes of over-exposure to pesticides in the workplace. Surveillance also serves as an early warning system of any harmful effects not detected by manufacturer testing of pesticides.