Pesticides suspected in spike of illnesses in Washington state

Laura Zuckerman
Reuters: May 12, 2014

Pesticides may be linked to a spike in cases involving breathing difficulties and skin rashes in central Washington state, health officials said on Monday.

Washington health department spokeswoman Kelly Stowe said the illnesses could be tied to 15 separate incidents of spraying pesticides in commercial orchards. Roughly 60 people have been sickened in the agricultural region since March, including agricultural workers, neighbors to orchards and a utility crew working near fruit farms.

At least eight people sought emergency medical treatment for symptoms that included nausea, vomiting and headaches, Stowe said.

The majority of pesticides used by commercial orchards are strictly regulated by state and federal environmental and agricultural agencies, which prohibit applications that cause exposure to humans, either directly or in so-called drift events, when pesticides drift from the intended targets, said Washington State Health Officer Kathy Lofy.

“We’re concerned with this spike in potential drift exposures (and) protecting people from unnecessary exposure to these chemicals is a responsibility that needs to be taken very seriously,” Lofy said in a statement.

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