Background Herbicides and pesticides are commonly used in Queensland, with concentrates being severely toxic if ingested. Toxicity can be aggregative with the addition of surfactants (detergents).
Methods A systematic search of peer reviewed literature and retrospective review of the Queensland Poisons Information Centre (QPIC) data from 2015 to 2019 was conducted. Patient demographics, extent and type of exposure: accidental or non-accidental, route, initial symptoms, circumstances around exposure and subsequent treatment in hospital were analysed.
Results Each year, there are on average 35,000 calls to the QPIC, of which 1% involve herbicides and 3.4% pesticides. Common herbicides encountered in 2018 and 2019 include glyphosate (50%), bromoxynil and paraquat, with common pesticides including pyrethrin/pyrethroids (29%) and rodenticides (16%). Where gender was known, there were more males (52%) than females (40%) with the most common age group being 0 – 4 years, reflecting the unintentional nature of many exposures. On average, 30% of victims were already in a medical facility or advised to seek medical attention.
Conclusions Herbicides and pesticides, while intended for control of plants and pests, can also cause harm to humans, with many exposures resulting in medical intervention. Additional toxicity may result from products with multiple ingredients, affecting the advice given and medical treatment required.
A further review of the data is indicated, to explore potential risks of exposure to herbicides and pesticides to inform public awareness and safety strategies, especially for parents of young children
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