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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

Print version ISSN 0256-9574

Abstract

TOLOSANA, Sandy; ROTHER, Hanna-Andrea  and  LONDON, Leslie. Child's play: exposure to household pesticide use among children in rural, urban and informal areas of South Africa. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2009, vol.99, n.3, pp. 180-184. ISSN 0256-9574.

BACKGROUND: As part of a larger dermatological investigation undertaken in 1999 - 2001 involving the Department of Dermatology, Groote Schuur Hospital (Cape Town, South Africa) and Nottingham University (UK), household pesticide use was investigated among Xhosa-speaking families living in three areas in South Africa (a rural area, an urban township and an informal settlement). OBJECTIVES: The aim was to characterise pesticide use patterns and potential exposures through skin absorption, ingestion and inhalation for this group of South African children. METHODS: A standardised questionnaire, which included a section investigating household pesticide use, was administered by four trained fieldworkers to the parents/guardians of the 740 children (25%) aged between 3 and 11 years identified as having atopic dermatitis either by clinical examination or according to the UK criteria (rural N=387, urban N=292, informal N=61). RESULTS: Of the children with atopic dermatitis, 539 (73%) had been exposed to household pesticides. Most childhood exposure (89%) occurred in the informal settlements, followed by 78% in the urban area and 63% in the rural area. CONCLUSIONS: This research highlighted considerable home environment pesticide exposure of South African children in lower socio-economic groups in rural, urban and informal areas. As children are particularly vulnerable to the short- and long-term health effects of pesticide exposure, further indepth investigation is needed to ascertain and document the health effects associated with such exposure in the home.

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