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Pesticide Users' Health Study

What is the Pesticide Users' Health Study?

The Pesticide Users' Health Study (PUHS) was established by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the late 1990's, and is now being conducted by HSE's Laboratory (HSL). The aims of the study are to monitor the long-term health of individuals potentially exposed to low levels of pesticides on a longer term basis, and to help fill the gaps in knowledge about the extent and nature of pesticide-related ill health.


How did pesticide users become part of the study?

In the 1990's and early 2000's, the National Proficiency Tests Council (NPTC) issued the recognised Certificates of Competence required by users of agricultural pesticides under the Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986. This is now undertaken by City & Guilds.

From 1994 to 2003, anyone applying for certification was invited to give their permission for HSE to access information relating to them for the purpose of medical research into pesticide use. For those who agreed, NPTC passed their name, contact details and information about their certification to HSE, and they became members of the Pesticide Users' Health Study. There are around 65,000 participants from across Great Britain.


How did we collect information about the study participants' pesticide use?

From 2004 to 2006, HSE sent a questionnaire to all members of the Pesticide Users' Health Study. This questionnaire looked at users' work with pesticides at the time, and in the past. It also asked about the types of pesticide used and the time spent using them.


How do we collect information about the study participants' health?

Around 96% of members of the Pesticide Users' Health Study have been successfully 'flagged' with NHS central registers. This means that the study team will be notified whenever a study member dies, is diagnosed with cancer, or emigrates from or returns to Great Britain. This information is provided to us on a quarterly basis by the NHS Digital, which is the national provider of information, data and IT systems for patients, clinicians, commissioners and researchers. NHS Digital supplies the mortality data on behalf of the Office for National Statistics and cancer data on behalf of Public Health England.

We have also received information on hospital admissions for members of the Pesticide Users' Health Study. This will allow us to investigate long-term ill health, such as neurological disease and eye disease. This information was provided by NHS Digital.


How do we use the study participants' data?

The information collected through the study is only used for medical research purposes, and to address specific research questions of interest. The findings are reported in such a way that no individual can be identified.

Personal information on study participants is only shared with NHS Digital in order to link with NHS information, which the study has specific permission to do. Other researchers may wish to use the data collected during the study, but they will not be given any personal information that can be linked back to individuals.

More information on how HSE processes data is provided in HSE's Privacy Policy Statement.


What work has been completed to date?

A number of reports and publications are freely available:

  • HSE Research Reports on cancer incidence (RR956) and mortality (RR958) among members of the study
  • An article in Occupational Medicine on mortality and cancer incidence
  • Results of the survey of pesticide usage undertaken from 2004 to 2006 has been summarised in HSE Research Report RR957


Analysis of hospital admissions among study participants is currently being undertaken.


How is the study funded?

The Pesticide Users' Health Study is funded by the Health and Safety Executive.



If you have any questions at all about the research, please contact the survey team:

Pesticide Users' Health Study
Health and Safety Executive
Harpur Hill
SK17 9JN


Or via the website Contact Form.



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