Agriculture dates back to the first recorded civilizations in Mesopotamia (currently known as Iraq) in 8000 B.C. and is defined as "the science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products." (1) It is a worldwide craft and agriculture is thought to be one of the three most hazardous occupations in the United States. There has been data collection regarding farm size, crops or animals produced and income generated for more than 150 years. A farm includes any place that sells or produces, or normally would have sold, $1,000 worth of agricultural products during the census year. The last available data from the Census of Agriculture in 1997 estimated that there were 1.9 million farms in our country. (2) On these farms, it is estimated there are between 1.24 and 3.35 million hired agricultural workers. (3) Agriculture as an occupation presents a wide variety of hazards to workers, including noise, organic dusts and physical and mechanical exposures that can result in traumatic injury and even death. While the data accuracy has been questioned, there has been some level of farm-related surveillance since 1930. (4) Fatality information has been collected nationwide since the 1940s, whereas nonfatal injuries are monitored more on a state level and only since the 1970s. The agriculture fatality rate in 1999 was 22.5 per 100,000 workers, which is higher than all other industries except mining. Tractors remain the leading cause of death with approximately 300 per year. (3) The nonfatal injury data is much harder to access and farms are not required to report to the Bureau of Labor Statistics until they employ 11 or more people. The most commonly reported problem involves musculoskeletal disorders. (5) Other common diseases or outcomes associated with agricultural workers involve respiratory illness due to organic dust exposure, chemicals or hydrogen sulfide gases, certain cancers, noise induced hearing loss and skin disorders. The purpose of this study is to review literature on the epidemiologic relationship between being an agricultural worker and the increased risk of respiratory illness, musculoskeletal disorders and noise-induced hearing loss.
International Journal of Global Health
©2003 International Journal of Global Health
"The Risks Associated with Agriculture: A Review,"
International Journal of Global Health, 2(2), 52-60.
Available at: https://scholarworks.uni.edu/ijgh/vol2/iss2/6