Notification of pesticide poisoning in the western Cape, 1987 - 1991
There is a paucity of data on pesticide-related morbidity and mortality in South Africa. A review of notifications to the western Cape office of the Department of National Health and Population Development from 1987 to 1991 was undertaken to describe the epidemiological profile of pesticide poisoning in the region. Two hundred and twenty five cases of pesticide poisoning were identified, of which the majority were from rural areas. Farmers, farm workers and their families were most frequently involved in poisoning events, which included accidents arising outside of workplace production (44%), self-inflicted injury (35%) and direct occupational contamination (11%). Farm pesticide stores were the most frequent source of pesticide and a seasonal variation in the trend of poisoning events could be discerned; this corresponded to agricultural spraying practices in the region. The mortality rate was significantly higher among those with self-inflicted injury, particularly farm workers. A concurrent review of hospital admissions for 1991 found that 78% of cases had not been notified. In view of the key role of surveillance in reducing pesticide-related morbidity and mortality, a call is made to improve notification of pesticide poisoning so as to facilitate control of an important potential public health problem.
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