IRSST - Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail

Apple Growers’ Skin Exposure to Pesticides

  •   December 05, 2019

Montréal, December 5, 2019 - The Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST) has just published a study describing apple growers’ skin exposure while performing their main tasks related to mixing and spraying pesticides and their use of protective clothing. Based on a review of the literature, extensive field observations and repeated interviews with five growers, the researchers conducted a detailed analysis of exposure situations and factors that facilitate or interfere with the wearing of protective clothing.

“Our findings show the importance of context in understanding how personal protective gear is used. Apple growers are subject to many microexposures (limited intensity and time) that do not impede their work. Although these situations are associated with probable cumulative exposure, they seem to lead growers to underestimate their risk of exposure through the skin, the main route of exposure to pesticides,” pointed out lead author Danièle Champoux of the IRSST.

At the same time, protective clothing itself has many shortcomings that interfere with its use, particularly the lack of standards or certification, the lack of training and information on selecting the best protection for any given pesticide and the difficulty buying protective clothing from reliable sources. The protective clothing’s effectiveness, comfort and cost are other factors that play a part in how it is used in farming. The study found that apple growers wear a wide variety of protective clothing that does not always comply with the instructions on pesticide labels. The researchers also describe a range of prevention practices based on industry know-how that apple growers incorporate into their activities and consider to be complementary to wearing protective clothing. The report concludes, “Discussions with growers and an emphasis on integrated prevention practices could also be conducive to increased skin protection in farming.”

The results of this study can be downloaded free of charge at

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For further information
Noémie Boucher
Communications Advisor , IRSST
514-288-1551, extension 206
[email protected]