Home Institution

Johns Hopkins University

Publication Date

Spring 2011

Program Name

Chile: Public Health, Traditional Medicine, and Community Empowerment


This study aims to characterize the risk of pesticide exposure for children under the age of 6 who live in the rural, agricultural communities of the Azapa and Lluta valleys in Region Arica and Parinacota in northern Chile. To achieve this objective, it seeks to understand current perceptions held by parents or guardians with respect to risk of pesticide exposure within their families and identify practices and living circumstances that contribute to this risk. In environmental health, children are an especially vulnerable population as a result of their distinct characteristics. Their exploratory behavior and naivety contribute to their risk of exposure, and their still-developing bodies respond differently once exposed.1 In agricultural communities, where pesticide use can be frequent and ubiquitous, pesticides represent a major environmental threat for both agricultural workers and the general population, including children. Pesticide exposures among children harm a population that is often unaware of its own risk, powerless to take measures to prevent exposure, and impacted more heavily than adults when exposed. From 2005 to 2010, 127 cases of acute pesticide intoxication were documented in the region of Arica and Parinacota, Chile. Of these, 13 cases (10.2%) were the result of non-work related accidental exposures, those that occur within the general population. Women were affected by these kinds of exposures more frequently than men (9 women compared to 4 men) despite a greater number of intoxications in men overall.2 Three accidental, non-work related exposures occurred within children under the age of 6 (one 2 year-old boy, one 2 year-old girl, and one 1 year-old girl).3 To fulfill the objectives of this study, a survey was given to a sample of 32 parents and caretakers of children under the age of 6 enrolled in the rural health clinics San Miguel de Azapa, Sobraya and Poconchile in the Azapa and Lluta valleys as they came for their children’s scheduled check-ups. The survey was completed during an interview, and responses were recorded and analyzed by the investigator with respect to the study’s objectives and context. The results indicated that many parents are not fully aware of the risk pesticides pose to their children despite the high risk of exposure. At the same time, the practices of many families did not correspond to the level of risk perceived by parents who were familiar with the risk of exposure to pesticides. Some engage in high-risk practices such as bringing their children with them to the fields while pesticides are being applied or leave bottles of pesticides within reach of children.


Agriculture | Environmental Health and Protection | Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification | Public Health


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