A total of 25,166 participants provided information on risk-accepting behavior; of these 5,188 (21%) were classified as having a risk-accepting personality (). The highest proportion of participants with risk-accepting personality traits were found among private applicators (21% overall, 21% IA, 20% NC), followed by spouses (23% overall, 23% IA, 20% NC), and the lowest proportion was among commercial applicators (14%). A risk-accepting classification could be made for both members of an applicator/spouse pair in only a few cases (n=118), due to the small number of spouses currently applying pesticides. Among these applicator/spouse pairs, 27% of applicators classified as having a risk accepting personality were also married to a risk acceptor. Characteristics of participants are shown in . Fewer risk-acceptors were never smokers compared to the risk averse. Risk-acceptors also tended to be older and less educated. No differences in alcohol use were observed between risk-acceptors and risk-averse individuals.
Characteristics of Agricultural Health Study Participants currently applying pesticides by risk accepting personality at Phase 2 interview (1999–2005)
Unadjusted OR’s and 95% CI’s for differences in PPE use and chemical mixing/application practices between risk-acceptors and risk-averse individuals are presented in . Adjustment for potential confounding factors had little effect on estimated OR’s (supplemental Table 1). Among private applicators, risk-acceptors were less likely to use any PPE when mixing or loading pesticides (OR = 0.72, 95% CI: 0.65–0.79), compared to risk-averse individuals. Due to a small sample size there was decreased power to detect differences among commercial applicators compared to private applicators. However, OR’s for any PPE use among commercial applicators were observed to be of similar magnitude and direction as those calculated among private applicators. We did not observe any differences in the use of any PPE when mixing/loading or applying between risk-acceptors and the risk-averse among spouses. Among both private and commercial applicators, risk-acceptors were less likely than risk-averse individuals to wear chemically resistant boots when applying (OR=0.79, 95% CI: 0.68–0.92 and OR=0.51, 95% CI: 0.29–0.91, respectively) and mixing/loading pesticides (OR=0.87, 95% CI: 0.79–0.97 and OR=0.70, 95% CI: 0.51–0.96, respectively). Risk-acceptors among private applicators were less likely to wear chemically resistant or waterproof gloves when mixing/loading (OR=0.75, 95% CI: 0.60–0.93), compared to other glove types (e.g. fabric or leather).
Unadjusted odds ratios of PPE use and risk accepting personality traits among participants currently applying pesticides in the Agricultural Health Study (1999–2005)
Comparisons of single types of PPE use, such as chemically resistant gloves, do not account for the fact that participants who may not use one type of PPE, e.g. chemically resistant gloves, may be using other types of PPE. Thus, we also investigated the use of multiple forms of PPE (chemically resistant/waterproof gloves and chemically resistant boots, coveralls, face shield and respirator). Risk-acceptors among private and commercial applicators were less likely to use two or more types of PPE while mixing or loading, compared to risk-averse individuals. Among private applicators, risk-acceptors were also less likely to use multiple forms of PPE when applying (OR=0.80, 95% CI: 0.71–0.92) and mixing/loading (OR=0.86, 95% CI: 0.79–0.93), compared to the risk-averse. A similar pattern was observed among commercial applicators. Risk-acceptors were less likely to wear chemically resistant/waterproof gloves and at least one other piece of PPE compared to risk-averse individuals among private applicators when applying (OR = 0.76, 95% CI: 0.66–0.89) and among private and commercial applicators when mixing/loading (OR = 0.92, 95% CI: 0.84–1.00 and OR = 0.65, 95% CI: 0.47–0.89, respectively). No differences in the use of multiple forms of PPE were observed among risk-accepting spouses, compared to risk-averse spouses ().
Risk-accepting private applicators, were more likely than risk-averse private applicators to have their drinking water well located within 50 feet of the closest pesticide mixing/loading area (OR = 1.63, 95% CI: 1.27–2.08), compared to the closest pesticide mixing/loading area being ≥¼ mile from a drinking water well (). After adjustment, there was also some evidence that risk-accepting private applicators, were more likely than risk-averse private applicators to have the closest field/orchard on which pesticides were mixed/loaded be within 50 ft of the home (OR = 1.21, CI: 1.01 – 1.44), compared to the closest field/orchard being >1/4 mile from the home ().
Odds ratios (95% CI) of pesticide handling practices and risk accepting personality traits among participants currently applying pesticides in the Agricultural Health Study
Farming activities, in terms of types of crops and animals farmed, differ between Iowa and North Carolina.23
In addition, there may be occupational and cultural differences between the states which we were unable to measure entirely. Therefore, we conducted analyses stratified by state. We observed similar patterns of PPE use and pesticide handling practices among risk - acceptors compared to risk-averse in both Iowa and North Carolina (results not shown).
We investigated which of the questions designed to assess attitude towards risk were most discriminating in classifying personality traits among all participants currently using pesticides (). Question 3: “During a normal work week [as a commercial pesticide worker] it’s common for me, while doing farm work, to experience a number of ‘close calls’ that under different circumstances might have resulted in personal injury or property loss” and Question 4: “To make a profit [to perform a job], most farmers [commercial pesticide workers] take risks that might endanger their health”, were most discriminating in classifying risk-accepting personality type. A small proportion of risk-averse individuals responded to Question 3 or Question 4 in the affirmative, 5% and 17% respectively. By comparison, 61% of risk-acceptors answered Question 3 in the affirmative, whereas 87% of risk-acceptors answered Question 4 in the affirmative. Rates of informative responses to each question among all current farmers (private applicators and spouses) and current commercial applicators (n=32,340) were similar, between 75% and 77%.
Percent of questions assessing attitudes toward risk answered in the affirmative among risk accepting and risk averse participants in the Agricultural Health Study