Objectives The objectives of this study were to assess the knowledge and practices associated with pesticide use in an agricultural community in Palestine, and to determine the prevalence of self-reported health symptoms related to pesticide exposure.
Methods:In this cross-sectional questionnaire study, agricultural farm workers in Nablus district, Palestine, were interviewed on their knowledge and practices of pesticide use. Comparisons of knowledge and practices of pesticide use between various groups were performed using the Mann–Whitney U-test or the Kruskal–Wallis rank test of variance. The program of the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 15 was used for data analysis.
Results: The questionnaire was completed by 381 farm workers. The mean age ± SD of the participants was 38.8 ± 11.8 years. The majority (97.9%) of the participants were male. The mean participant scores for knowledge and safety procedures were 2.8 ± 3.2 out of 8 and 9.8 ± 2.4 out of 15, respectively. There was a significant positive correlation (r = 0.323; P < 0.001) between the knowledge and safety procedure scores. Unsafe behaviors were identified as the storage of pesticide products at home, the preparation of pesticides in the kitchen, inadequate disposal of empty pesticide containers, eating and drinking during pesticide application, and using inadequate protective clothing. The most frequent self-reported toxicity symptoms associated with pesticide use were skin rash (37.5%), headache (37%), excessive sweating (24.9%), and diarrhea (21.3%). There was a strong significant negative correlation (r = −0.83; P < 0.001) between self-reported toxicity symptoms and scores for protective measures.
Conclusion: The results of this study indicate that most farm workers in this district need more educational programs regarding the safety and use of pesticides. Legislation promoting the use of safer pesticides is also needed.