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Nicotine exposure and decontamination on tobacco harvesters' hands.

Curwin-BD; Hein-MJ; Sanderson-WT; Nishioka-MG; Buhler-W
Ann Occup Hyg 2005 Jul; 49(5):407-413
Green tobacco sickness is an illness associated with nicotine exposures among tobacco harvesters. Agricultural workers manually harvest tobacco and thus have the potential for skin exposure to nicotine, particularly on the hands. Often gloves are not worn as it hinders the harvesters' ability to harvest the tobacco leaves. The purposes of this study were to measure the concentration of nicotine residue on the hands of tobacco harvesters and the effectiveness of hand washing at removing the residue. Wipe samples from the hands of 12 tobacco harvesters were collected at the end of morning and afternoon work periods over two consecutive days. Each harvester had one hand wiped before washing his hands, and the other hand wiped after washing his hands with soap and water. Eight samples per worker were collected over the two days for a total of 96 samples collected. In addition to the hand-wipe samples, leaf-wipe samples were collected from 15 tobacco plants to estimate the amount of nicotine residue on the plants. The average nicotine level in leaf-wipe samples was 1.0 microg cm(-2). The geometric mean pre-wash and post-wash nicotine levels on the hands were 10 and 0.38 microg cm(-2), respectively. Nicotine leaf-wipe level, right or left hand and time of sampling did not significantly influence exposure. Job position-working on the bottom versus the top of the tobacco harvesting machine-was associated with nicotine levels. Pre-wash nicotine levels were higher for workers on the bottom of the harvester but not significantly higher (P = 0.17). Post-wash nicotine levels were significantly higher for workers on the bottom of the harvester (P = 0.012). A substantial amount of nicotine was transferred to the hands, but washing with soap and water in the field significantly reduced nicotine levels by an average of 96% (P < 0.0001).
Tobacco; Tobacco-industry; Tobacco-dusts; Agricultural-workers; Agricultural-industry; Farmers; Skin-exposure; Sampling; Sampling-methods; Occupational-exposure; Hand-protection; Author Keywords: green tobacco sickness; hand exposure; hand washing; nicotine; tobacco harvester
Brian D. Curwin, Industrywide Studies Branch, Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 4676 Columbia Parkway MSR-14, Cincinnati, OH 45226, USA
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Annals of Occupational Hygiene
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division