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A number of studies have detected high levels of pesticide residues in surface water and aquatic life in Jamaica and acute pesticide poisoning is believed to be widespread there. Despite efforts by the Jamaican government to create awareness of the dangers of pesticides and adopt safe a pesticide disposal method, many farmers still display poor pesticide handling and disposal practices. The objectives of this study were to 1) describe pesticide use by farmers in northwestern Jamaica including inappropriate methods in pesticides handling and disposal, and 2) determine whether farmers’ perception of the mode of bodily entry of pesticides affects their method of disposal. Farmers in Westmoreland, St. James and Hanover were surveyed using an investigator-administered instrument. Although 96% of farmers had some form of formal education, 75% had received no training in the use of pesticides. Only about 15% thought that crop yields and quality could be maintained without the use of pesticides. Only 29% believed that pesticide use posed a health risk, while 91% thought that pesticide use was an environmental hazard. Less than 45% of farmers used safety gear (gloves, masks, goggles) in handling pesticides although 65% always used special clothing. A fair proportion of farmers burn, bury or dump unused pesticide or empty pesticide containers in the bushes. Farmers’ disposal methods were influenced by their perception of the ways that pesticides enter the human body. Thus, a large percentage of farmers in these parishes use pesticides inappropriately and are exposed to pesticides in handling. Disposal of unused pesticides and empty pesticide containers pollute the environment and most likely expose others. Measures should be taken to educate farmers, to provide protective gear at an affordable price, and to implement a clear and consistent method for collection of unused pesticide and empty pesticide containers.


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