Standard Article

Agricultural Hygiene

  1. William Popendorf, Ph.D., CIH,
  2. Kelley J. Donham, DVM

Published Online: 15 APR 2003

DOI: 10.1002/047126363X.agr357

Encyclopedia of Agrochemicals

Encyclopedia of Agrochemicals

How to Cite

Popendorf, Ph.D., CIH, W. and Donham, DVM, K. J. 2003. Agricultural Hygiene. Encyclopedia of Agrochemicals. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2003


Agriculture was and in most places still is, a disciplined life style that has bred strong character and high morals in virtually every culture. But such attributes are probably more the necessities of successful agriculture than its natural benefit. Modern agriculture, as practiced by Western cultures, is not the bucolic, healthful working environment fantasized in media classics such as Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy. Whatever it was, agriculture is changing or facing change everywhere. While some cultures (and indeed some crops within all cultures) have yet to make the transition from human to animal to mechanized power, or from chemical to genetically engineered tools, where these transitions have occurred, production per farmer has increased. Unfortunately, so too have health and safety stresses upon farmers. Twenty years ago agriculture was the third most hazardous occupation. Although conditions within general industry improved during the intervening years, agriculture has been exempt of mandated safety and health services. Today agriculture is the most hazardous occupational group in the United States. In fact, modern farm life has recently been described as “A Harvest of Harm.”

This chapter hopes to address the needs and interests of industrial hygienists, as opposed to other reviews of agricultural hazards. It first describes the dilemma of agriculture as both an industry and as a way of life. Selected health hazards that are either characteristic of or unique to agriculture are then reviewed. A topical overview of hazardous processes, physical, biological and chemical agents, and diseases of concern in agriculture is given. The selected topics have been organized into acute and cumulative trauma, respiratory hazards, pesticides, veterinary chemicals, zoonoses, dermatoses, physical hazards, cancer, and mental stresses. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how the traditional industrial hygiene components of anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control might be applied to agriculture, potential policies to stimulate industrial hygiene and safety services on the farm and ranch, and approaches employed in other countries to deliver such services. While the problems discussed are world wide, this chapter will focus on U.S. agriculture.


  • agriculture;
  • health and safety issues;
  • disorders;
  • respiratory hazards;
  • musculoskeletal trauma;
  • acute trauma;
  • pesticides;
  • veterinary compounds;
  • skin disease;
  • mental stress;
  • cancer;
  • intervention;
  • education