Risk of Pesticide-Related Health Effects: An Epidemiologic Approach

  • Stanley Schuman


Members of the public are concerned about developing cancer or other serious illnesses such as neurological disorders as a result of exposure to pesticides. Such public concerns may lead, through political processes, to decisions to restrict pesticide usage. Sometimes decisions are made which would not be made were the ignorance of the members of the public replaced by scientific knowledge. Sometimes government regulators are induced to make judgments about the potential danger of specific pesticides in the absence of scientific knowledge supporting those specific claims (Doll, 1991). In the past, decisions regarding prevention of disease have sometimes been made which, while not based on rigorous science, have met with some degree of success. Included among these are decisions referred to in the Bible regarding sanitary encampments and diet. Also included are the adoption in the 19th century of sanitary measures in London (Dubos, 1959). Nonetheless, it is reasonable to expect that decisions of this sort, based on intuition, will not lead to consequences which are best overall. In this paper I describe briefly an epidemiologic approach to determining whether pesticides are causing illness or injury. This approach is contrasted with other less-rigorous approaches and various studies are cited which illustrate these approaches. I conclude that epidemiological studies should be undertaken in an effort both to understand the etiology of agricultural illnesses and to determine such steps as are warranted to prevent such illnesses.


Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Contact Dermatitis Pesticide Exposure Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Pesticide Poisoning 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Routledge, Chapman & Hall, Inc. 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stanley Schuman
    • 1
  1. 1.Agricultural Medicine, College of MedicineUniversity of South CarolinaCharleston

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