Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tobacco Farm Workers May Contract Tobacco Sickness, Wake Forest Study Shows

Date:
February 24, 2000
Source:
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Summary:
Green tobacco sickness, characterized by headache, nausea, vomiting and dizziness, may be increasing as family tobacco farms are consolidated into large commercial operations and work is done by migrant or seasonal farm workers, according to a Wake Forest University School of Medicine epidemiologist.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Green tobacco sickness, characterized by headache, nausea, vomiting and dizziness, may be increasing as family tobacco farms are consolidated into large commercial operations and work is done by migrant or seasonal farm workers, according to a Wake Forest University School of Medicine epidemiologist.

Related Articles


Writing in the current American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Sara A. Quandt, Ph.D., said that 41 percent of tobacco farm workers reported having green tobacco sickness at least once during the summer. Most are migrant Hispanic farm workers.

Quandt, associate professor of public health sciences (epidemiology), and four colleagues reported that the illness typically occurs after exposure to wet tobacco leaves in the morning while plants are still covered with dew, or after a rain. The disease is attributed to acute nicotine poisoning caused by contact with nicotine on the plants, which is rapidly absorbed through the skin.

"This is the first survey research to document green tobacco sickness as an occupational health risk among seasonal and migrant farm workers," Quandt reported.

While green tobacco sickness was first described in the medical literature in 1970, it rarely came to medical attention, perhaps because it was less likely to occur on small family tobacco farms, where exposure to wet tobacco leaves was limited.

"Instead of family groups with a few workers doing a relatively small amount of tobacco work, there are now hired, low-paid, usually minority workers working in tobacco almost exclusively for 8-12 weeks each year," Quandt said. "These workers are exposed to the risks of tobacco work for longer, more intensive periods of time than was ever the case for farming families."

Furthermore, she said, most of the migrants are from southern Mexico and are much shorter than the whites and African-Americans who used to work family tobacco farms. That difference in height may be critical during production when the flower is cut from the growing plants, usually 4-6 feet in height, to increase root growth, leaf weight and nicotine content.

"Absorption increases with the amount of skin exposed and with skin damage or disease," she said. Because the work is done on the hot, humid days of summer, workers are more likely to work shirtless.

The problem has been accentuated because production research has determined that spacing rows more closely together increases production poundage. That also increases the contact between the leaves and the skin. The harvesting of tobacco requires repeated trips through the field over a number of weeks, as the leaves are harvested from the bottom up.

While the symptoms of green tobacco sickness ordinarily include nausea, vomiting, and dizziness, she said there were no established diagnostic criteria yet. "Other frequently encountered symptoms include abdominal cramps, headache, breathing difficulty, pallor, increased sweating and salivation, chills and fluctuations in blood pressure or heart rate."

Most workers attempt to treat themselves. "Only 9 percent sought medical treatment," she said, "and 7 percent lost work time."

She added, "Many farm workers believe they will be fired and lose their income if they get sick or work too slowly. Green tobacco sickness is an environmental justice issue, part of the growing concern that poor, minority and medically underserved populations bear a disproportionate share of environmental and occupational health risks."

Quandt and other researchers at Wake Forest are now engaged in a three-year epidemiological study of green tobacco sickness among farm workers, financed by the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. "Tobacco Farm Workers May Contract Tobacco Sickness, Wake Forest Study Shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 February 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/02/000224075701.htm>.
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. (2000, February 24). Tobacco Farm Workers May Contract Tobacco Sickness, Wake Forest Study Shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/02/000224075701.htm
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. "Tobacco Farm Workers May Contract Tobacco Sickness, Wake Forest Study Shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/02/000224075701.htm (accessed February 1, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Hikers Rescued After Fall from Oregon Mountain

Hikers Rescued After Fall from Oregon Mountain

AP (Feb. 1, 2015) Two climbers who were hurt in a fall on Mount Hood are now being treated for their injuries. Rescue officials say they were airlifted off the mountain Saturday afternoon by an Oregon National Guard helicopter. (Feb. 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smart Glasses Augment Reality to Help Visually Impaired

Smart Glasses Augment Reality to Help Visually Impaired

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Feb. 1, 2015) New augmented reality smart glasses developed by researchers at Oxford University can help people with visual impairments improve their vision by providing depth-based feedback, allowing users to "see" better. Joel Flynn reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flu Season Hitting Elderly Hard

Flu Season Hitting Elderly Hard

Reuters - US Online Video (Jan. 31, 2015) The CDC says this year&apos;s flu season is hitting people 65 years of age and older especially hard. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC: Get Vaccinated for Measles

CDC: Get Vaccinated for Measles

Reuters - US Online Video (Jan. 30, 2015) The CDC is urging people to get vaccinated for measles amid an outbreak that began at Disneyland and has now infected more than 90 people. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins