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Green tobacco sickness: an occupational hazard among tobacco harvesters.
Proceedings of the NIOSH Symposium on Efforts to Prevent Injury and Disease Among Agricultural Workers, August 25-27, 1993, Lexington, Kentucky. Washington, DC: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 1994 Jul; :67-71
Green tobacco sickness is an occupational hazard for tobacco harvesters. It is a form of nicotine poisoning that is caused by transdermal absorption of nicotine that's dissolved on the moisture on the wet tobacco plant. The main signs and symptoms are nausea and vomiting, weakness and dizziness. There is an initial tachycardia and hypertension that is followed by a lowering of the heart rate and blood pressure in the more severe cases. These signs and symptoms are very similar to that for organophosphate pesticide poisoning and also for heat exhaustion. Green tobacco sickness is a self limited condition. It usually lasts only one to two days but it can be very incapacitating during those couple of days. There have been very few reports of green tobacco sickness in the medical literature. The only two from the United States up until this year were in Florida in 1970 and North Carolina in '73. In the North Carolina Study, the researchers were able to document that non-smoking tobacco harvesters were absorbing large amounts of nicotine as measured by a urinary cotinene, this is a primary metabolite of nicotine. They also found in their studies that non-smokers were a much greater risk for developing green tobacco sickness than smokers.
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Proceedings of the NIOSH Symposium on Efforts to Prevent Injury and Disease Among Agricultural Workers
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Page last reviewed: March 11, 2019
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division