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Helping Clinical Laboratories Standardize Farmworker Tests

The Issue

Growers are required to test the blood of pesticide mixer loaders, applicators and others who contact organophosphate (OP) and organocarbamate (CB) pesticides -- such as diazinon and carbofuran -- in the workplace. Barry Wilson, animal science and environmental toxicology professor, his students and colleagues showed that tests used by California clinical laboratories often were not optimal and that results were not comparable from laboratory to laboratory. This led to a change in state regulations requiring that mandatory tests be consistent and conversion factors be generated.

What Has ANR Done?

Wilson is working with Cal EPA Department of Pesticide Regulation to help clinical laboratories improve and standardize their blood cholinesterase measurements -- the blood enzymes used to detect exposure to the OP and CB pesticides. Wilson and his laboratory collaborated with DANR IPM personnel such as Pat O'Connor-Marer and Jennifer Weber, state workers such as physician toxicologist Michael O'Malley, director of UC Davis Employee Health Services, the UCD/NIH Center for Environmental Health Sciences, and the UCD/NIOSH Agriculture Health and Safety Center. Wilson's team developed a bovine red blood cell enzyme standard using cow blood from the Department of Animal Science; they also devised an optimal assay procedure. Wilson's laboratory served as the benchmark in comparing blood test results with participating clinical laboratories.

The Payoff

UCD scientists standardize mandatory blood tests

Wilson's studies with clinical laboratories are standardizing results from many laboratories, offering growers and workers in the agricultural workplace more accurate tests to provide for their safety, and helping to keep California in the forefront of producing safe and nutritious food for the consumer.


Supporting Unit: UC Davis Department of Animal Science/Department of Environmental Toxicology

Barry Wilson, Professor
Departments of Animal Science
Department of Environmental Toxicology, UC Davis
(530) 752-3519; bwwilson@ucdavis.edu