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Pesticides are chemical compounds that are used to protect plants from pests, weeds, and diseases. In the last half of the last century, worldwide pesticide production has increased at a rate of about 11% per year, from 0.2 million tonnes in the 1950s to more than five million tonnes in the year 2000.

Australia is heavily invested in pesticide use, continuing to use over 80 pesticides that are banned in other countries. As of 2022, there are over 8,000 pesticide products available for use in Australia.

The dangers of exposure to pesticides

Along with the wide use of pesticides in Australia, the concerns over their health impacts are rapidly growing.

There is a significant body of evidence on the relationship between people occupationally exposed to pesticides and the elevated risks of chronic diseases such as:

  • Cancer including leukemia, multiple myeloma, lymphoma, lung cancer, prostate cancer, brain cancer, lip cancer, skin cancer and bowel cancer.
  • Diabetes.
  • Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and amyotrophic later sclerosis.
  • Asthma.
  • COPD.
  • Cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.
  • Autoimmune diseases including systemic lupus erythematous and rheumatoid arthritis.

Some of the most high-risk occupations include farmers, land management workers, pesticide manufacturing workers, golf course superintendents and orchardists. 

Ben’s Story

For 40-year-old Ben, his exposure to pesticides in the course of his employment significantly increased his risk of developing stage IV small bowel adenocarcinoma, a terminal condition.

Hardworking Ben was employed as a pesticide spray foreman/applicator at an orchard for more than 16 years starting from the age of 24.

Throughout the course of his career, Ben was exposed to several dangerous agricultural pesticides and herbicides. Ben’s role required him to mix concentrated levels of pesticides and herbicides for the application to fruit trees. Ben was also required to fill sprayer tanks and operate sprayer tanks on a regular basis.

In May 2022, Ben began to suffer from abdominal bloating and pain and attended his GP for review. Tragically, Ben was subsequently diagnosed with inoperable bowel cancer. Ben is now unable to work and support his young family. His deteriorating health leaves an uncertain future. What is certain is the physical and psychological challenges associated with his bowel cancer diagnosis continue to impact Ben’s quality of life.

Seeking compensation for workplace exposure

Ben was not initially aware of the link between his workplace exposure to pesticides and the development of his bowel cancer condition. He contacted our specialised Workplace Diseases team. We gave Ben advice about the increased risk of cancer he faced as a result of his job and his entitlement to compensation benefits.  

Ben’s lawyer, Ross Sottile, immediately submitted a claim on his behalf. In under two months, Ben’s claim was accepted, and he is now entitled to coverage of his medical expenses and a lump sum amount for his pain and suffering. While no amount of compensation can restore Ben’s health or make up for what he has been through, it will provide him and his family with financial security.

Ben hopes his story will create greater awareness about the hazards of pesticide exposure and its devastating impacts on people’s lives. Awareness of the risks of exposure to dangerous pesticides can save the lives of hardworking Australians.

What you should do if you are concerned about your workplace exposure

If you have worked somewhere with exposure to pesticides and are concerned you might be at risk, see your GP. It is important you also inform them of your occupation, and exposure levels so they have all the information.

Your GP can guide you as to the need for any ongoing monitoring depending on your specific circumstances.

If you have been diagnosed with a condition you believe could be related to your work exposure to pesticides it is important to get legal advice to help you understand your rights and options. 

Learn more about our work in workplace disease compensation

Our dedicated workplace disease lawyers have significant experience in helping clients get compensation for occupational diseases caused by asbestos, silicadust exposure and more. Contact us today and find out how we can help you.

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