Fertilizer & PesticideA pamphlet and summary of recently concluded research on tree planter exposure to chemicals on seedlings or in fertilizers offers guides to reducing exposure including best choice of gloves, practical hygienic practices and techniques; plus links for more information.

Fertilizer and Pesticide Use by Tree Planters:

Safety Bulletin Based on Research Summary

Jordan TeslukBC Safe Silviculture Project

A research project examining pesticide and fertilizer exposure among tree planters was conducted between May 2006 and April 2007. The study was as joint venture between researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and FPInnovations, Feric Division. The project was funded by FPInnovations, Feric Division and supported by grants from Island Timberlands Limited Partnership, WorkSafeBC and the Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association (WSCA) in response to concerns voiced by workers regarding potential health effects of the substances they handle on a daily basis.

The research was headed by Dr. Hugh Davies (professor at the UBC School of Environmental Health) and Mr. Ernst Stjernberg (researcher and professional forester at FPInnovations, Feric Division). The research was subject to the Tri-Council Policy Statement on research ethics, and was externally reviewed before funding was approved. The research was coordinated by Ms. Melanie Gorman, and the outcomes of the research were made available in late 2008, with the completion of Ms. Gorman’s thesis.

This summary has been prepared in order to assist workers and members of the industry in identifying the most salient findings and recommendations drawn from the research. Past research on pesticide exposure on Canadian tree planters has been very limited, and this research represented the largest and most reliable study done to date on the tree planting workforce.

The study focused on two issues:

  1. Exposure to fertilizers (specifically the teabag variety commonly used in planting contracts)
  2. Exposure to pesticides (those that are sprayed by nurseries on seedlings, prior to planting)

Exposure data was collected using skin swabs from planters’ hands, blood samples and air samples using a filtering device carried by planters. Data were collected from 54 different planters at 5 different worksites, including a control site at which no fertilizer was being utilized. The research also included interviews with 223 treeplanters based in 13 different work crews.

The study had limitations associated with its scope and the limited workforce segment and operating conditions included in the research. However, some generalized findings and broad recommendations have been extracted from the research to provide the industry and its workers with a better understanding of their circumstances. These points have been provided based on a review of the material by an industry member, and the recommendations have been made based on the research findings and acknowledgement of the challenges inherent in the industry. Those interested in reviewing the specific recommendations and suggestions for sites of future study can view the thesis at the following web address: https://dspace.library.ubc.ca/dspace/bitstream/2429/2493/1/ubc_2008_fall_gorman_melanie.pdf

Additional information on the research can be found at http://www.cher.ubc.ca/treeplanter/

Source: Symbiotic Solutions
Web Link: https://dspace.library.ubc.ca/dspace/bitstream/2429/2493/1/ubc_2008_fall_gorman_melanie.pdf