Having red hair increased the workers’ skin cancer risk by nearly four times, according to the study. People with fair skin are more likely to be sunburned, which can lead to melanoma. Obesity also was linked to an increased risk, for unknown reasons.
The researchers took the workers’ survey responses about safety equipment into account when estimating doses.
All pesticides in the study are labeled with handling instructions and some can only be applied and mixed by licensed applicators, who receive ongoing training to handle and mix chemicals. The minimum recommended safety equipment is long pants, long sleeves, boots and gloves, but more personal protective equipment can be required depending on the chemical.
“What kind of safety equipment they need to wear is written on each label,” said Kristine Schaefer, pesticide applicator training specialist at Iowa State University Extension. “People need to follow the label directions or they can be held liable. That is what we preach.”
But Schaefer said all workers don’t follow the rules. “We talk about it in our training all the time to try to get the message across,” she said.
Previous research in Europe and the United States also has linked long-term pesticide exposure to increased melanoma risks. In Europe, researchers found that people who used pesticides indoors more than four times a year had twice the melanoma rate of people who used less.
The pesticides in the study are approved for use by the Environmental Protection Agency, and according to Dale Kemery, EPA press officer, they were all reviewed in 2008. Benomyl and ethyl parathion were voluntarily canceled as part of that process. Review of pesticides occurs at least every 15 years.
This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.