"Before the training I knew the pesticides were bad for you... but I didn't know how to protect myself from them."
As seasonal agricultural workers in the fields of eastern Washington's Lower Yakima Valley, Angelica Zuniga and her husband, Jorge, were regularly exposed to pesticides on the fruit they picked, potentially tracking the pesticide residue home on their clothes and exposing their seven children to the chemical dust.
Since participating in For Healthy Kids, however, Zuniga has learned how to limit "take-home" pesticide exposure. For Healthy Kids was part of a five-year study by Hutchinson Center and University of Washington researchers looking for evidence of how pesticides may be spread between agricultural workers and their children. The research was funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
"Before the training I didn't wash our clothes separately from the children's, we didn't take our shoes off before entering the home and we didn't take a shower right away after work, and now we do," said Zuniga.
Hutchinson Center educators provided tips (in Spanish) on how to prevent take-home pesticide exposure at community fairs, schools and "health parties" in residents' homes.
Project leader Dr. Beti Thompson, a member of the Hutchinson Center's Public Health Sciences Division, said children are uniquely susceptible to home-pesticide exposure because they spend more time on carpets and floors, often wear minimal clothing during the summer pesticide-spray season (increasing their likelihood of skin exposure) and engage in hand-to-mouth behavior (increasing their likelihood of ingesting pesticides). Their immune systems may also have a harder time clearing the pesticides from their bodies.
"Before the training I knew that pesticides were bad for you…but I didn't know how to protect myself from them," Zuniga said. "Now I feel that I have learned how to take care of my family from pesticides."
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