Pesticide products are used in excess of one billion pounds per year in the United States according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Despite potentially serious hazards to human health, these chemicals are used in nearly all fields where crops are harvested, placing farmworkers at the greatest risk for health issues related to pesticide exposure.

To ensure appropriate precautions are taken by the people laboring in the fields, training is vital. Since 1995, the Assciation of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP) has partnered with the EPA to provide farmworker training on the Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides (WPS), designed to reduce pesticide-related fatalities and injuries among individuals working in agricultural occupations. The successful program trained more than 11,000 farmworkers in 2013 alone.


A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for:  preventing, destroying, repelling and mitigating any pest.  Though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests.

Types of Pesticides:

  • Insecticides
  • Herbicides
  • Fungicides
  • Rodenticides
  • Germicides

Application Method:

  • Aerial Spraying
  • Backpack Spraying
  • Tractor Spraying
  • Irrigation
  • Fumigation
  • Pellets

How do pesticides enter our body?

  • Ingestion:  through the mouth
  • Inhalation: through the nose and/or mouth
  • Ocular: through the eyes
  • Derma: through the skin


Anyone who may become exposed to pesticides should be aware of the signs and symptoms of pesticide poisoning. Prompt action during pesticide overexposure can prevent serious consequences.

Poisoning signs can be seen by others, for example, vomiting, sweating, or pin-point pupils. Symptoms are any functional changes in normal condition which can be described by the victim of poisoning, and may include nausea, headache, weakness, dizziness, and others. Anyone who works with pesticides should learn what these signs and symptoms are to prevent serious injury and allow prompt treatment.  Persons who are frequently involved with pesticides should become familiar with these important steps:

Recognize the signs and symptoms of pesticide poisoning for those pesticides you commonly use or to which you may be exposed.

  1. If you suspect a pesticide poisoning, get immediate help from a local hospital, physician, or the nearest poison control center.
  2. In a pesticide emergency, identify the pesticide to which the victim was exposed. Provide this information to medical authorities.
  3. Have a copy of the pesticide label present when medical attention is begun. The label provides information that will be useful in assisting a pesticide poisoning victim.
  4. Know emergency measures you can take until help arrives or the victim can be taken to the hospital. Both first aid and medical treatment procedures are listed on the product label.

Pesticide exposure may result in a number of acute or chronic health problems. AFOP’s WPS trainers focus on the dangers of pesticides, highlighting symptoms associated with acute pesticide poisoning, the importance of seeking medical attention, and raising awareness about chronic effects of pesticide exposure.

The WPS is a regulation designed to protect the health of farmworkers. AFOP trainings educate workers about their rights under the WPS, including their rights to training, access to soap and water, and information about pesticides applied where they work.  The WPS has been revised

Farmworkers are generally adults, with a wide variety of learning styles. Trainers provide interactive training sessions, including demonstrations and role-plays, designed to effectively educate workers on the dangers of pesticide exposure and the provisions of the WPS.



  • The EPA estimates that 300,000 farmworkers are poisoned by pesticides each year.
  • The most common route of pesticide exposure is through the skin.
  • According to the Environmental Working Group celery, peaches, strawberries, apples and blueberries contain the highest amounts of pesticides of all fruits and vegetables.
  • Pesticide exposure is linked to devastating diseases such as Alsheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and many kinds of cancer including brain, stomach, kidney, and leukemia.
  • Pesticides can affect fertility for both men and women.
  • You can find pesticides in your own home in products such as bleach and other household cleaners and OFF, Raid, and other insect killers.
  • Farmworkers can better protect themselves against the hazards of pesticide exposure by wearing gloves, pants, and long-sleeved shirts.


Under the Farmworker Occupational Health & Safety Training Program are the following organizations are providing pesticide safety trainings:

    • Alabama:  Telamon Corporation
    • California:  Proteus, Inc.
    • Iowa:  Proteus, Inc.
    • Indiana:  Proteus, Inc.
    • Louisiana: MET, Inc.
    • Maine:  Eastern Maine Development Corp.
    • Maryland/Delaware:  Telamon, Corp
    • Nebraska:  Proteus, Inc.
    • New Jersey:  PathStone Corp.
    • New Mexico:  HELP NM, Inc.
    • Oklahoma:  ORO Development Corp.
    • Pennsylvania:  PathStone, Corp.
    • Puerto Rico: PathStone, Corp.
    • Texas:  MET, Inc.
    • Virginia: Telamon, Corp.

For more information, contact Melanie Forti, Director of Health & Safety Programs