Adverse health effects caused by pesticide exposure have been reported in occupied Palestinian territory and the world at large. The objective of this paper is to compare patterns of pesticide use in Beit-U'mmar village, West Bank, between 1998 and 2006.
We studied two populations in Beit-U'mmar village, comprised of: 1) 61 male farmers and their wives in 1998 and 2) 250 male farmers in 2006. Both populations completed a structured interview, which included questions about socio-demographic factors, types of farming tasks, as well as compounds, quantities, and handling of pesticides. Using the 1998 population as a reference, we applied generalized linear regression models (GLM) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) in order to estimate prevalence differences (PD) between the two populations.
In 1998, farmers used 47 formulated pesticides on their crops. In 2006, 16 of these pesticides were still in use, including five internationally banned compounds. There were positive changes with less use of large quantities of pesticides (>40 units/year) (PD -51; CI -0.60, -0.43), in applying the recommended dosage of pesticides (PD +0.57; CI +0.48, +0.68) and complying with the safety period (PD +0.89; CI+0.83, +0.95). Changes also included farmers' habits while applying pesticides, such as less smoking (PD -0.20; CI-0.34, -0.07) and eating at the work place (PD -0.33; CI-0.47, -0.19). No significant changes were found from 1998 to 2006 regarding use of personal protective equipment, pesticide storage, farmers' habits after applying pesticides, and in using some highly hazardous pesticides.
The results were based on two cross-sectional surveys and should be interpreted with caution due to potential validity problems. The results of the study suggest some positive changes in the handling of pesticides amongst participants in 2006, which could be due to different policy interventions and regulations that were implemented after 1998. However, farm workers in Beit -U'mmar village are still at risk of health effects because of ongoing exposure to pesticides. To the best of our knowledge, no studies on long-term changes in pesticide use have been reported from developing countries.