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
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.
The state licenses roughly 24,000 pesticide applicators,
dealers, consultants and inspectors, all of whom are required to
gain training in applying restricted chemicals safely, said Joel
Kangiser, pesticide compliance program manager for the
Washington agriculture department.
He said the bulk of incidents under investigation involved
so-called air-blast spray applications in which a high-speed fan
is used to drive air through a pesticide solution, creating a
(Editing by Edith Honan and Ken Wills)
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