An analysis of farm related fatalities occurring in California children was performed. Death certificate tapes of the State of California were searched to identify all accidental deaths in children under 15 years of age that occurred on farms from 1980 to 1989. The details of each accident were analyzed. Death rates were calculated using age and race specific rural population estimates for the general United States population as the reference. Odds ratios (ORs) for farm machinery, animals, electricity, and other causes being risk factors for the deaths were computed using deaths in nonfarm locales as the reference. Forty deaths, 30 occurring in boys, were identified as occurring on farms during the study period. Three were identified as being related to farm work, 19 not related to farm work, and 18 were coded as indeterminate. The five major causes of death were machinery, nontraffic motor vehicle accidents, drowning, animals, and firearms, which were responsible for 12, nine, four, five, and five deaths, respectively. Among the machinery related deaths, eight involved tractors, usually as a result of the child riding on the vehicle. By ethnic group, ten occurred to Hispanic children. The overall fatality rates among boys and girls were 1.2 and 0.4 death per 100,000, respectively. Among Hispanic children, the rates for boys and girls were 1.7 and 0.2 death/100,000, respectively. Among nonHispanics, the incidence rates for boys and girls were 1.0 and 0.5 death/100,000, respectively. By age, the largest number of deaths occurred among 0 to 4 and 10 to 14 year old children. The risks for machinery, animals, and motor vehicles being responsible for a death on a farm were significantly increased relative to nonfarm locales, ORs 81.3, 10.1, and 3.4, respectively. The risk from drowning was significantly decreased, OR 0.2. The authors conclude that deaths of children in California agriculture are uncommon. Farm machinery is the single largest cause of child deaths, accounting for 30% (12 out of 40) of the total.
Marc B. Schenker, MD, MPH, Division of Occupational/Environmental Medicine and Epidemiology, ITEH, Old Davis Rd, University of California, Davis, CA 95616-8648