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Few independent studies on poisoning of workers were carried out at European level in the late 1990s. The European Federation of Agricultural workers (now EFFAT) ran a survey on pesticide poisoning among its two million members. Some 1,230 questionnaires from individuals and organisations were analysed. At least one in five people believed they had been made ill, poisoned, or adversely affected by pesticides. Problems of use represent 73% of incidents, particularly: handling concentrates (6%), application (39%), and preparation and mixing (28%). But the proportion of incidents following pesticide treatment is noticeable: washing after use (12%), operations involving contaminated equipment (7%), or containers after use (2%), working in previously treated areas (6%), making a total of 27%. In 46% of cases, poisoning involved medical intervention, either consultation or hospital visit.

What is more, a recent European Parliament Environment Committee (ENVI) study highlights the fact that farmers and their families are especially prone to illnesses caused by pesticides. Workers are potentially exposed to higher levels than the general population, and many scientific studies show harm to health related to occupational exposure. For example, several studies have found that the risk of childhood cancer is higher among children of agricultural workers and children living on farms. So having strict exclusion criteria for some hazardous pesticides will result in additional protection for farmers and their families.

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