If the research concludes that analyzing gloves is a useful way to measure worker exposure, gloves could become an important tool for farmers and regulators. Another probable area of impact from the study is in verifying the levels of exposure, which the researchers are finding to be very low.

“These workers have very low levels of pesticide exposure. And in fact, they’re the best-studied workers with respect to pesticide exposure in agriculture,” Krieger said. “That gives us confidence that the exposure is not having a health impact.”

Definitive results from the August study are expected in about six months.

The research program has been sponsored by strawberry growers of the California Strawberry Commission and the Personal Chemical Exposure Program, UC Riverside. The current Santa Maria research is possible by the involvement of DB Specialty Farms and Safari Farms of Santa Maria and PrimusLabs.

The research was approved by the Institutional Review Board of UC Riverside and the California Environmental Protection Agency. All the participation is voluntary and the farmworkers and their spouses or roommates are compensated for the inconvenience of urine collection. They receive $25 for each 24-hour collection and a $100 bonus for completing all 10 urine collections.

In addition to the extra pay, the study volunteers benefit by helping improve pesticide safety for themselves and their colleagues.

“These workers are doing a service to other workers by allowing us to measure the amount of exposure that occurs during normal work,” Krieger said.

Video interviews about the on-farm research can be seen at http://ucanr.edu/krieger.