Sudden rise in Washington pesticide illnesses

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - A sudden rise in pesticide drift incidents in Eastern Washington orchards has sickened 60 people since March - a typical number for a full year, the Washington State Department of Health said Monday.

"We're concerned with this spike in potential drift exposures and are calling our partner agencies to work with pesticide applicators on following state and federal rules to prevent drift," said Kathy Lofy, state health officer. "Protecting people from unnecessary exposure to these chemicals is a responsibility that needs to be taken seriously."

Pesticide drifts onto workers either in the wind or when the applicator doesn't know people are in the area. They may suffer from eye, skin and breathing irritation and headache and nausea.

The incidents have occurred in Adams, Benton, Chelan, Douglas, Franklin, Grant, and Yakima counties.

The Washington Department of Agriculture is reminding pesticide applicators to follow directions and monitor conditions to prevent drift. The department licenses 24,000 pesticide dealers and applicators in Washington.

Pesticide spraying rules are enforced by the departments of Agriculture and Labor and Industries.