Tobacco Chemical Contact

Introduction – epidemiology

Herbicides and pesticides are used throughout the tobacco life cycle, beginning with preparation of the soil before transplantation of seedlings all the way to application to plants after harvest. The following link, Weed Management in Tobacco, by J Michael Moore, provides specific herbicide usage information by life cycle. Pesticides Commonly Used on Tobacco, by Toxic Free NC, offers a similar list of pesticides commonly used on tobacco in North Carolina.

It is difficult to assess the precise extent of chemical-related skin irritation. Even anecdotally, skin irritations may be difficult to distinguish from natural irritants, such as the juice from the tobacco plant, which is very irritating to the skin. Further, the impact of long-term low-level of exposure is also not well-understood. However, the documented extent of chemical use in tobacco suggests that consideration of chemical contact is warranted, and that prevention education for patients is advisable.

Acute chemical poisoning Two extensive guides on agricultural chemical guides and one 60-minute webinar are presented here.

Physician’s guide to pesticide poisoning by DE Stevenson, Texas Agricultural Extension Service, Texas A & M University, College Station, Texas.

Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings, R Reigart and J Roberts. US EPA.
Reconocimiento y Manejo de los Envenenamientos por Pesticidas (Spanish version).

Webinar: Identification and Management of Pesticide Poisoning. 06/10/2008. 60 minute webinar by Mike Rowland, MD, of the Migrant Clinician’s Network (PDF of slides).

National Pesticide Information Center

Long-term exposure The most recent data on associations between agricultural chemicals and long-term health effects indicate a range of cancer and non-cancer effects. For more details see the following reviews:

Cancer health effects of pesticides Systematic review

Non-cancer health effects of pesticides Systematic review and implications for family doctors

Talking to patients about pesticides Concerns about possible exposure or symptoms of exposure present an opportunity to talk to patients about chemical exposures. The following excerpted sections of A LITTLE BIT OF POISON…WILL IT KILL YOU? A Pesticide Education Manual for Community Health Workers and Promotores de Salud, by A Liebman, Migrant Clinician’s Network, provide brief guidance for discussing chemical exposure with patients.
Pesticide education manual in Spanish.

  • What are pesticides? [12]
  • How are people exposed [17]
  • How much can pesticides hurt us [24]
  • Pesticides in the home [27]
  • How do we protect ourselves and our families? [37]
  • What is the Worker Protection Standard or WPS for farmworkers? [39]