For convenience, the questions asked during the teleconference have
been grouped into the general categories listed below. Click on a
category or scroll down to review all questions and answers.
Q: Are rubber gloves adequate protections for health care workers treating a
suspected pesticide poisoning?
A: Latex gloves afford health care workers adequate protection from exposure
to most pesticides on a poisoning victim's clothing and skin during
decontamination. In some cases, protection from exposure may require thicker
gauge gloves. Information on required protection is available on the pesticide
label, product's Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), or through the Florida
Poison Information Network (1-800-222-1222).
Q: In the case history provided, what was the source of poisoning?
A: The source of pesticide in the case presentation was coveralls that were
laundered after a spill. Laundering does not remove pesticide residue from
heavier fabrics and leather. Laundering contaminated articles with other clothes
may contaminate the other clothes. Clothing that has been contaminated should be
double plastic bagged, then incinerated in a biohazard incinerator. In this case
example, when the contaminated coveralls were worn, perspiration slowly leached
pesticide from the coveralls and the pesticide was absorbed through the skin.
Q: Is it recommended to use cholinesterase testing when using lock and load
A: Lock and load closed systems are a type of pesticide mixing configuration
that reduces applicator's potential exposure to pesticides. Nevertheless, it is
advisable that applicators, mixers and loaders who work with cholinesterase
inhibiting pesticides be enrolled in a health-monitoring program that includes
regular cholinesterase testing.
Q: Should workers enter the field after a pesticide is applied?
A: All agricultural pesticides labeled after April 1994 must have the
Restricted Entry Interval (REI) stated on the label. The REI must be observed
before fieldwork can resume following a pesticide application. Fields that have
been treated with a pesticide requiring a restricted entry interval must be
marked with signs to warn workers and others that entry is prohibited.
Furthermore, a central posting site on the farm must list the dates of all
pesticide applications during the previous thirty days.
Q: What clothing or equipment should be worn when applying pesticides?
A: Read and follow the label directions concerning the minimum personal
protective equipment required for applying that particular pesticide. Some
pesticides may require eye protection, gloves, or respirators.
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Q: Where is emergency medical information for treating poisonings available?
A: The first source for health information is the label on the product. The
Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) accompanies products and has more extensive
health and toxicity information. The Florida Poison Information Network (800)
222-1222 is an excellent resource for emergency medical management information.
Q: What laboratory tests are available to confirm a pesticide poisoning?
A: The most specific standard test for organophosphate pesticide poisoning is
the red blood cell (RBC) cholinesterase test. Plasma cholinesterase (also known
as pseudocholinesterase) may also be useful. For pesticides other than
organophosphates, there are few direct biological markers that can indicate
poisoning. Urine and blood tests may be able to detect pesticide residues or
metabolites to confirm acute exposures.
Q: If a family member swallows pesticides, what should be done first?
A: Read and follow the label's first aid instructions. Call the Poison
Information Network for further direction. Call 911 or proceed to the nearest
hospital emergency room if any abnormal signs or symptoms are noted.
Q: If a family member has skin contact with pesticides, what should be done?
A: Wash all exposed skin surfaces with soap and water. Read the pesticide
label for hazard warnings and first-aid instructions concerning skin irritation.
Contact the Poison Information Network, or seek medical attention if irritation
persists or worsens.
Q: What are some common symptoms of pesticide poisoning in children?
A: The symptoms of pesticide poisoning in children are generally the same as
that for adults except that a lower dose usually is required to produce adverse
health effects in children. Because very young children may not be able to
express discomfort such as headaches or nausea, symptoms of irritability or
hyperactivity may be the most apparent sign of adverse health effect.
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Symptoms and Treatment
Q: How would the types of dermatitis from pesticides be treated?
A: Dermatitis due to pesticide exposure is treated in much the same way as
dermatitis due to other irritants. Protecting the individual from further
exposure, cleaning the area of damaged or irritated skin to prevent infection,
applying emollients, topical antibiotics and/or steroid creams also may be
Q: Is gastric emptying only used for those who ingested pesticides?
A: Yes, gastric lavage is recommended for patients who have ingested
Q: If a patient with organophosphate ingestion has already vomited, is
gastric emptying still recommended?
A: Vomiting that empties gastric content obviates the need for gastric lavage.
Q: Can pesticide poisoning induce psoriasis?
A: Psoriasis may be exacerbated by exposure to any environmental
allergen, including pesticides. Persons with questions and concerns about
specific medical conditions are advised to consult with their physician.
Q: Are the following symptoms a result of pesticide poisoning?: A
metallic taste, then change of heart rate; shortness of breath, then numbness;
pain and color change in left arm and leg.
A :The symptoms described are not known to be specific to any class of
pesticides. An examining physician can best evaluate questions and concerns
about specific medical conditions.
Q: Comment on clinical manifestations and management of glyphosate
poisoning. This pesticide is widely used in industry and households.
A: Glyphosate herbicide, a common over-the-counter weed control product, has
very low systemic toxicity in humans and other mammals. Although minor dermal or
respiratory tract irritation is possible after high levels of exposure,
glyphosate is not capable of causing a poisoning in the way organophosphate
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Q: How are farm workers trained and educated to work safely with pesticides
and prevent poisonings?
- A: The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) requires
that agricultural workers be provided with training under the Worker
Protection Standard (WPS). For complete information on requirements under
the Worker Protection Standard see:
Q: How often do the growers have to give the training?
A: Worker Protection Standard training must be provided in summary
form before a farmworker starts the first day of work. A complete WPS training
session must be provided within the first five days of employment and repeated
at least every five years.
Q: Who monitors the growers to see that the training has been given?
- A: WPS violations should be reported to the Florida Department of
Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bureau of Compliance Monitoring at their
- 1-800-HELP-FLA (1-800-435-7352) or
- 1-850-488-3314 (toll charges apply)
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Q: How long does it take to register a pesticide in the United States?
A: Registration of pesticides for use in the United States requires extensive
health and environmental safety testing that may exceed ten years.
Q: Are pesticides that are forbidden in the United States being sold
A: All pesticides sold in the United States must be approved for use and
registered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). If a
pesticide is not registered for use in the United States but is manufactured in
the United States for export only, it must carry labels indicating that the
product has been approved by the US EPA for export only.
Q: According to a former EPA administrator, aldrin and dieldrin
constitute an imminent hazard to man and the environment. Does the State of
Florida recognize this and is there any safe level for a combination of banned
A: Aldrin and dieldrin are no longer registered for use in the United States.
Because these organochlorine pesticides persist in the environment, they will be
found in the ecosystem for many years to come. Combinations of hazardous
chemicals pose risks usually measured by adding together the risks of the
individual constituent chemicals. There are no "safe" levels for any
pesticide but many pesticides are detectable in the environment at levels that
are not a significant hazard to human health. The State of Florida imposes
limits on the acceptable level of these contaminants in soil that may be more
stringent than federally mandated levels. If contamination exceeds acceptable
limits, appropriate environmental remediation strategies are required. Soil
clean-up levels for probable human carcinogens such as aldrin and dieldrin are
based on risks of long-term exposure. Short or intermediate term exposures at
those levels do not represent an imminent hazard.
Q: Does the state regulate companies that dispose of pesticide
containers in drums containing parathion?
A: Methyl parathion is a Restricted Use Pesticide (RUP) for use in
outdoor agricultural settings only. State and federal laws require proper
disposal of all pesticide products. Suspected pesticide law violations should
be reported to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services,
Bureau of Compliance Monitoring at:
- 1-800-HELP-FLA (1-800-435-7352)
- 1-800-352-9832 or
- 1-850-488-3314 (toll charges apply).
Q: What is the law regarding sensitized individuals? How does one
get on the list?
A: The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services maintains a
current registry of persons who require prior notification of the application
of pesticides. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is
required to provide a list of these persons on a quarterly basis to all
businesses and persons who have a current license or have a limited
certificate issued through their Bureau of Entomology and Pest Control. Upon
request, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will
register any person who pays an initial registration fee of $50 and submits a
medical certificate signed by a Florida physician.To apply for the registry,
individuals may call the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer
Services, Bureau of Entomology and Pest Control at: 1-850-921-4177.
Q: What if other pesticide products contaminate the pesticide
product, one of which is not registered? Whose authority does that fall under?
Is that allowed in the state of Florida?
A: Pesticide products must meet certain purity requirements for US
EPA registration. It is against pesticide and consumer protection laws to sell
adulterated products. Various state and federal agencies have jurisdiction to
enforce these laws depending on the nature of the violation. Adulterated
pesticide products should be reported to the Department of Agriculture and
Consumer Services, Bureau of Compliance Monitoring
- 1-800-HELP-FLA (1-800-435-7352)
- 1-850-488-3314 (toll charges apply).
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Pesticide Labeling & Info
Q: Where is information available about the pesticides applied if a worker
A: The label on the pesticide container is the primary source of information
for identifying a pesticide and its potential hazards. The Material Safety Data
Sheet accompanying the product provides more detailed information. The Florida
Poison Information Network (1-800-222-1222) offers round-the-clock guidance for
emergency medical management of pesticide poisoning.
Q: Where is information available for identifying pesticides used in
A: Local agriculture extension agents have pesticide information in
the form of crop sheets for the common crops planted in Florida counties. The
phone number of your local agriculture extension agent can be found in the phone
Q: Explain the difference between MSDS and label. Why is the label the
only information that is required by law and enforced, when there may be
important information from other sources?
A: The pesticide label contains information regarding health and
environmental hazards and required personal protective equipment. The Material
Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) contains more detailed information than can reasonably
be contained on a label. Every pesticide manufacturer is required by law to
provide specific information on the label and the MSDS. Employers and
applicators may have further legal responsibilities to post and/or provide label
and MSDS information in certain circumstances. Relevant state and federal
agencies enforce all pesticide laws.
Q: Where is information available on the tolerance limits to specific
pesticides for a small child exposed to pesticides in the home?
A: People should use common sense to minimize their exposure to
pesticides. In general, pesticides used according to their labeled directions
pose virtually no risk of producing significant adverse health effects in adults
or children. Pesticide health data often requires research and expert
interpretation of extensive toxicological literature. To determine the maximum
acceptable exposure limit for a specific pesticide, the US EPA's Integrated Risk
Information System (IRIS) is a useful resource. The IRIS database can be
Also, the Code of Federal Regulations, part 180 (Tolerances and Exemptions from
Tolerances for Pesticide Chemicals) can be accessed at: http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/cfr-table-search.html
Q: Where can the public access data collected by the health
departments surveillance system?
A: Florida Pesticide Exposure Surveillance Reports are available on
the Department of Health internet site:
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Pesticide Home Use
Q: Should clothes be washed with the family laundry after applying
A: Clothes that may be contaminated with pesticide residues should
always be washed separately from other clothes.
Q: How should unwanted household pesticides be discarded?
A: If possible, use pesticide products according to label directions until
the containers are empty. Triple rinse empty containers with water and dispose
of them with regular household waste. Or call your local waste management
district and ask about disposal of toxic and hazardous materials in your area.
Many communities have special days for picking up toxic household wastes such as
Q: How harmful is household exposure to insecticide?
A: Pesticides are extensively tested and screened before registration
and household pesticides are formulated at very low concentrations. Therefore,
pesticides used according to the label directions are not expected to produce
any significant adverse health effects.
Q: How long must an apartment be vacated after extermination for
A: Requirements vary by type of pesticide used. All requirements are listed
on the pesticide label. Pest control operators will provide a copy of the
pesticide label on request.
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Pesticides and Food
Q: Do foreign growers use systemic pesticides that are not necessarily
approved for use in the United States? What about imported fruits and
vegetables? Whose responsibility is this? How do we find out what is in them?
A: Pesticides sold in foreign countries must be approved for use by
the regulatory authorities in that country. Imported products must meet state
and federal food safety standards.
In some cases, pesticides that are not approved for use in the United
States are approved for use by foreign countries. Most violations are associated
with residues occurring on crops for which there is no tolerance, rather than
residues that exceed a tolerance. There is no pattern of import violations
associated with a particular pesticide or pesticide/crop combination.
Food crops imported into the United States must meet import tolerances
for pesticide/crop combinations that are legal in the country of origin.
Tolerances are established by US EPA and monitored by the US Department of
Agriculture (USDA) to ensure that pesticide residues on imported foods do not
pose a threat to human health. USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service and the US
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitor foods for pesticide residues. More
information on the FDA's pesticide monitoring program can be found at:
http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/pestadd.html (Division of Food Safety,
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Phone: 850-488-0295).
Q: Children should be protected. Can children eat a piece of fruit
A: Federal laws consider foods with residues of pesticide chemicals in
excess of established tolerances as contraband subject to seizure as
"adulterated." This applies to both raw and processed foods. No
adverse health effects to adults or children have been linked to the very low
pesticide residues routinely found on some fruits and vegetables, but the health
benefits of eating fruits and vegetables are well documented. Therefore,
children can eat fruit and vegetables safely and children should be encouraged
to eat washed fruits and vegetables as part of a nutritionally well balanced
diet. If concerns about pesticide residues remain, organically grown foods are
Q: How do you get rid of chemicals on fruits and vegetables? Explain ways to
decontaminate and which produce to avoid. Also, pesticides on fruits and
vegetables affect children more than adults because of their weight. How is
toxicity in children avoided and prevented?
- A: All fresh produce should be washed thoroughly before consumption
to remove potentially dangerous bacteria and this process will also help wash
off pesticide residues. If people are concerned about the very low pesticide
residues found on some fruits and vegetables, they may wish to purchase
organically grown foods that are usually free of pesticide residues.
- Fruits and vegetables provide important health benefits and people should
not avoid consuming them because of fear of pesticide residues.
Q: Is the Food Quality Protection Act banning toxic levels of
pesticides on grapes and apples?
A: By August 2006, the US EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) plans to
have taken a second look at every limit that has been set for an amount of
residual pesticide that can remain in a food product. That means that the OPP
will be reviewing some 9,700 tolerances that have been set for 470 pesticides.
The goal of the reviews is to address the key issues raised in the 1996 Food
Quality Protection Act (FQPA): Does the pesticide tolerance allow for possible
aggregate exposures? Could residues below the tolerable limit be dangerous when
combined with exposures to other pesticides? Does the tolerance sufficiently
protect children? And what are the effects of the pesticide on the endocrine
system? Based on the reviews, the EPA will set new tolerances, and it is likely
that some pesticide uses will be banned altogether.
Q: What is meant by "unreasonable health risk"? How do you define
A: The measurement of "unreasonable" risk involves balancing the
probability that harm will occur and the magnitude and severity of that harm
against expected benefits to society. All reasonable precautions are taken so
that pesticide exposure risks are minimized and benefits to society are
maximized. Under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), the standard of no
"unreasonable health risk" has been replaced by "reasonable
certainty of no harm". For most effects, US EPA establishes a reference
dose based on the lowest "No Observable Adverse Effect Level" (NOAEL)
divided by a factor of 100. Estimated exposures above that level are considered
unreasonable. An additional safety factor of 10 in the divisor is designed to
safeguard the health of infants and children. The resulting standard is the
NOAEL divided by a factor of 1000. Potential exposures above that level are
considered unreasonable. For cancer, US EPA considers exposures to be reasonable
if they are expected to produce no more than one case per million people in the
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Health & Environment
Q: Is there a time period for effective use of various containers? Can
pesticides seep through plastic, metals, or glass? Also, How safe are the
various containers that are used to store pesticides?
A: Pesticide containers are developed and tested to meet US EPA and
Department of Transportation requirements. Pesticides should never be
transferred from their original containers.
Q: Why is paraquat a common suicide agent in the Far East?
A: Paraquat is a common suicide agent because a relatively small
amount is known to be a lethal dose. In many countries, pesticides are not as
carefully regulated as they are in the United States and easy accessibility,
especially in rural areas, may contribute to the suicidal misuse of pesticides.
Q: Is Agent Orange a paraquat, diquat, or mofamquat?
A: Agent Orange is the name of a defoliant formulation used by the US
military in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. Agent Orange was not a
paraquat, diquat or mofamquat. It was a combination of two chlorphenoxy
herbicides, 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T), and 2,4-D
(2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid). In addition, some Agent Orange formulations
were contaminated with TCDD (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-doixin, a toxic
byproduct of 2,4,5-T production.
Q: What are the synergistic and cumulative effects of pesticides used
A: There are many chemicals and medicines used today that contribute to our
quality of life although their long-term effects may not yet be fully known. The
number of chemicals and medicines used by millions of individuals is so vast
that quantifying all potential synergistic interactions and the potential
effects on every individual is impossible. The adverse effects of pesticides are
researched using animal models before pesticides can be registered with the US
EPA. Cumulative health effects are considered by US EPA's risk assessment,
before a pesticide can be registered for use in the United States.
Q: Are the pesticide safety levels published from studies on white
A: Studies on the health effects of pesticides draw data primarily
from animal models. Human studies include controlled experimental toxicology
studies, health studies on individuals with occupational exposures, and
epidemiological studies on regional populations or groups such as farm families,
rural residents, or other groups, including women, children, and non-Caucasian
Q: Are pesticides safe for children? Should children apply pesticides?
A: Pesticides are poisons intended to kill living things and technically no
pesticide can be considered "safe" for adults, children or animals.
Nevertheless, pesticides may be used safely. The Fair Labor Standards Act
prohibits any person under age 16 from being employed in an occupation that
requires handling or applying pesticides registered by US EPA. Because children
do not recognize pesticide hazards, responsible adults do not permit their
children to play with or apply pesticides. All pesticides are labeled with
directions for using the pesticide in a manner that minimizes potentially
hazardous exposures, including the warning, "Keep out of reach of
Q: What are the implications and government response to banned pesticides
found at the residential soil clean up target levels for the State of Florida at
residences and at schools?
A: Florida guidelines for maximum acceptable pesticide residue levels
in soil are as strict or stricter than federal guidelines. The Florida
Department of Health and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection
conduct risk assessments for contaminated soil sites. Florida Department of
Health recommends appropriate risk management strategies designed to reduce
potential risks to human health on a case-by-case basis.
Q: What branch of local, state or federal government is responsible
for remediating contaminated sites?
A: Federal and state agencies may have overlapping jurisdiction over
contaminated sites. Property owners may be responsible for ensuring that their
property meets all health and environmental laws regarding pesticide
contamination of soil. Legal jurisdiction and responsibility for remediation
must be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Q: Is it possible to get well water tested in farming areas? Is there
A: Testing private wells potentially contaminated by agricultural
chemicals can be arranged through the county health department. There is no
charge to homeowners living near existing agricultural or historically
agricultural areas. For more information, contact the environmental health
section of your local county health department.
Q: Are there any studies relating paraquat as a carcinogen?
A: US EPA lists paraquat as a possible human carcinogen.
- Q: Are there any connections between pancreatic cancer and
A: Some studies have detected an association between pancreatic
cancer and chronic exposure to certain pesticides, such as DDT
(dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and 1,2 dichloroethane, probable human
carcinogens. Regulatory controls are designed to minimize or eliminate human
exposure to carcinogenic chemicals.
Q: Is there any evidence of carcinogenicity among any of the
A: At present, there are many organophosphate pesticides known to be
animal carcinogens. None have been shown definitively to be human carcinogens.
Exposure to pesticides that are probable human carcinogens can be minimized
through proper protective equipment and proper storage, use and disposal. Under
the Food Quality Protection Act, US EPA is in the process of systematically
reviewing the registration status of all organophosphate pesticides for evidence
of significant acute, chronic, cumulative and synergistic adverse health
Q: Have any statistical analyses been conducted documenting the
incidence of cancer among agricultural workers applying pesticides?
A: Some epidemiological studies suggest that agricultural workers who
are exposed to high levels of certain pesticides over many years face an
increased risk for certain types of cancers. Most of these pesticides have since
been discontinued from use. The status of the remaining pesticides'
re-registration is under US EPA review.
Q: If pesticides are dangerous to our health, why can't their use be
discontinued in favor of safer alternatives?
A: Pesticides provide important benefits, most importantly the health
benefits of controlling disease-carrying mosquitoes and other pests. A secure
food supply, management of natural water resources, and protection of indigenous
plant and animal habitats all result from careful use of pesticides. The
benefits provided by pesticides to society outweigh the minimal risks they pose
when used appropriately. Nevertheless, as technology and toxicological
information improves, safer alternatives to existing pesticides are being
developed and registered for use while more toxic pesticides are being phased
out by US EPA and pesticide manufacturers.
Q: What kind of research is there to create alternative methods? Where
is education about these solutions available?
A: Alternative methods of pest control that do not rely on chemical
pesticides have a very long history. In fact, the oldest method of pest control
is the manual removal of insects from buildings, clothing, hair, and food crops.
Academic, private and governmental research is continuously underway to develop
more advanced and effective non-chemical pest control methods. The United States
Department of Agriculture conducts such research through the Agriculture
Research Service. The University of Florida's Institute for Food and Agriculture
Sciences (IFAS) is a nationally recognized leader in the development of
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques that reduce reliance on chemical
pesticides. For more information on IPM, visit the IFAS website at: http://www.ifas.ufl.edu
Q: Which pesticides are sprayed from airplanes? What practices are in
place to keep the public out of danger?
A: Aircraft may apply a variety of pesticides and/or fertilizers. As
with all pesticide applications, aerial pesticide applications are approved by
US EPA only after potential environmental and health risks are assessed to be
minimal when the pesticide is applied in accordance with the label.
Q: How many cases of definite malathion poisoning due to Florida
Medfly Eradication Program were reported to the EPA?
A: Under the criteria in use during 1998, no report of pesticide
poisoning attributed to Medfly Eradication Program activities could be
classified as a definite case.
Q: Why refer to pesticide poisoning in the farmer only? It is
important to talk about toxicity in the general public. Who ingests the farm
products? How do we prevent this type of poisoning?
A: The Florida Department of Health is committed to protecting and
promoting the health of all Florida residents and visitors. Farmers and
farmworkers are among the occupational categories that are likely to receive
higher pesticide exposures in the course of their employment than the general
public. Pest control operators, and workers involved in the manufacture,
storage, distribution, and transportation of pesticides are also at higher risk
of exposure. Adverse health effects are more likely to be detected among people
who have the higher exposures. Concentrating surveillance for pesticide-related
illness among groups with the highest levels of exposure serves the general
public by detecting potential adverse effects as soon as possible. Poisoning
prevention begins with objective health surveillance.
Q: Where is information available on chemical sensitivity for
pesticides for physicians?
A: Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is a complex and poorly understood
condition that goes beyond the scope of this teleconference. A federal
Interagency Workgroup reviewed existing research on Multiple Chemical
Sensitivity and concluded, "It is currently unknown whether MCS is a
distinct disease entity and what role, if any, the biochemical mechanisms of
specific chemicals have in the onset of this condition." The complete
report is available at:
Q: If a patient suspects chronic pesticide poisoning, what should be done?
A: Alternative potential disease processes or conditions should be ruled out
before making the difficult diagnosis of pesticide poisoning. An accurate
occupational/exposure history is helpful in determining whether a sufficient
dose has been received to indicate such diagnosis. In some cases, chronic
exposure can be confirmed by laboratory tests for pesticide residue or
metabolite in blood or fatty tissue biopsy. Consultation with an experienced
occupational medicine physician is recommended.
(Please review the Data section at the bottom
of the home page for updated information on acute pesticide exposure).
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