Pesticide Exposure in Cotton Chippers in the Gwydir Valley, 1991-92. December 1992. Dr Lyn Clarke Agricultural Health Unit, Moree District Hospital, NSW. Dr Tim Churches Epidemiology and Health Services Evaluation Branch, NSW Health Department
P2 “Analysis of erythrocyte cholinesterase activity from the blood samples revealed a six percent decline in the mean enzyme activity in those chippers who were followed up. This is highly statistically significant. No decline would be expected in an unexposed population. A number of the chippers suffered reductions in cholinesterase activity of greater than 30 percent of their initial values. Such reduction of cholinesterase activity may cause symptoms in susceptible individuals, although none of the chippers reported any symptoms specifically attributable to pesticide exposure in the course of Part 1 of the study.
Part 2 of the study revealed that it is possible to recover significant amounts of endosulfan and profenofos pesticide residues from clothing worn while chipping. Cotton chippers have traditionally worn minimal clothing during their work, an observation confirmed by this study. Most of the pesticides used in cotton agriculture are readily absorbed through the skin. Therefore there appears to be considerable opportunity for dermal exposure of cotton chippers to pesticide residues on the cotton plants after aerial spraying.