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Crop Dusting and cancer

Old 02-09-2009, 09:35 AM
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Default Crop Dusting and cancer

Any evidence that flying a Crop Duster and being exposed to the chemicals contributes to cancer? I may end up doing this once I graduate college and I was wondering about the effects of the chemicals.

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Old 02-09-2009, 09:57 AM
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I don't think it's the flying as much as prolonged exposure to pesticides.

Never flown a crop duster so I would also be interested to hear what the incident rate is for that group of pilots.
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Old 02-09-2009, 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Razorback09 View Post
Any evidence that flying a Crop Duster and being exposed to the chemicals contributes to cancer? I may end up doing this once I graduate college and I was wondering about the effects of the chemicals.
Razorback09, You raise a valid question.

I have flown ag planes since back in the late seventies, and planning on flying them again this year. I am about to turn fifty years old. I have no cancer or any other medical problems that I am aware of. I know, and have known many,many ag pilots down through the years and while yes, there has been a few that have developed cancer, the vast majority have not. I think this would be representitive of the general population of people. Matter of fact, I am doing my ATP training right now with an ag pilot that just turned seventyeight years old. He looks healthy and strong. Other than the normal concerns about cancer that everyone shares, I don't think that ag pilots are more "prone" to getting it.

There were several studies done down through the years where ag pilots would be monitored with weekly blood tests and such for several years at a time. I don't recall these test's finding anything out of whack with the pilots involved. I was included in some of this.

Also just want to add that the products used these days are not even close to the toxicity of products used years ago. The airplanes are so much safer, and the big thing is that todays ag pilot is a professional aviator/businessman/good neighbor. Sure, their are still some "cowboys" out their but they are becoming less and less by the year. This industry is certainly not the same as it was even back when I started. It is, and will make more changes for the better.

Ag aviation is a great way to make a living. You just gotta be very careful. More than likely, it's not cancer that will kill you in this industry. This type of flying is not a game and should be taken very seriously.

Good luck to you.
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Old 02-09-2009, 08:12 PM
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Many workers are exposed to industrial chemicals...I would guess that collectively they probably have at least a slightly higher risk of health problems (possibly including cancer) compared to say office workers.

Airline pilots have some elevated risk too, skin cancer and certain other problems. People speculate (and I agree) that the skin cancer risk probably has nothing to do with flying, and everything to do with having time off and as a group being more active and outdoor oriented than the general population. I suspect our biggest occupational risks are circadian rhythm disruption and constant exposure to Jet A fumes and exhaust (and possibly other things like hydraulic fluid). Risk due to crashing is very, very low (for airline pilots).
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Old 02-10-2009, 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by agrinaut View Post
Razorback09, You raise a valid question.

I have flown ag planes since back in the late seventies, and planning on flying them again this year. I am about to turn fifty years old. I have no cancer or any other medical problems that I am aware of. I know, and have known many,many ag pilots down through the years and while yes, there has been a few that have developed cancer, the vast majority have not. I think this would be representitive of the general population of people. Matter of fact, I am doing my ATP training right now with an ag pilot that just turned seventyeight years old. He looks healthy and strong. Other than the normal concerns about cancer that everyone shares, I don't think that ag pilots are more "prone" to getting it.

There were several studies done down through the years where ag pilots would be monitored with weekly blood tests and such for several years at a time. I don't recall these test's finding anything out of whack with the pilots involved. I was included in some of this.

Also just want to add that the products used these days are not even close to the toxicity of products used years ago. The airplanes are so much safer, and the big thing is that todays ag pilot is a professional aviator/businessman/good neighbor. Sure, their are still some "cowboys" out their but they are becoming less and less by the year. This industry is certainly not the same as it was even back when I started. It is, and will make more changes for the better.

Ag aviation is a great way to make a living. You just gotta be very careful. More than likely, it's not cancer that will kill you in this industry. This type of flying is not a game and should be taken very seriously.

Good luck to you.
Thank you that post answered a lot of my questions. I'm very interested in aerial application and have been researching it pretty thoroughly. It sounds like a career path a might very well take. As for the cancer most of the things i've read have indicated that while people exposed to the chemicals are slightly more likely to develop cancer it's not so much that it would turn me away from it and you are much more likely to die from showing off. Thanks for your help!
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Old 02-10-2009, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by agrinaut View Post
Razorback09, You raise a valid question.

I have flown ag planes since back in the late seventies, and planning on flying them again this year. I am about to turn fifty years old. I have no cancer or any other medical problems that I am aware of. I know, and have known many,many ag pilots down through the years and while yes, there has been a few that have developed cancer, the vast majority have not. I think this would be representitive of the general population of people. Matter of fact, I am doing my ATP training right now with an ag pilot that just turned seventyeight years old. He looks healthy and strong. Other than the normal concerns about cancer that everyone shares, I don't think that ag pilots are more "prone" to getting it.

There were several studies done down through the years where ag pilots would be monitored with weekly blood tests and such for several years at a time. I don't recall these test's finding anything out of whack with the pilots involved. I was included in some of this.

Also just want to add that the products used these days are not even close to the toxicity of products used years ago. The airplanes are so much safer, and the big thing is that todays ag pilot is a professional aviator/businessman/good neighbor. Sure, their are still some "cowboys" out their but they are becoming less and less by the year. This industry is certainly not the same as it was even back when I started. It is, and will make more changes for the better.

Ag aviation is a great way to make a living. You just gotta be very careful. More than likely, it's not cancer that will kill you in this industry. This type of flying is not a game and should be taken very seriously.

Good luck to you.
Agrinaut -

Until I came to the CA Central Valley - I had not seen night time crop dusting. Is this fairly common throughout the industry? also - i finally saw a agri-helo the other day, but it was the first that I have seen in this region in 3 years. Are they becoming more and more (or less and less common)? What are the pros and cons of fixed wing -vs- rotary winged?

as far as chemicals and such - -I would think that the evolution of the chemicals themselves adn the application mechanisms will only have gotten safer and safer through the last decades. maybe there was a higher risk when Ag pilots were practically bathing in the the chemicals of old; but I'm sure that OSHA and such have put stringent limits in place that have made the professional much safer overall.

Recently I was driving on the two line highway from the mainside of our base to the Ops side of the base (I was traveling north). An Ag-plane was making passes on the field to the west. He would come from the left - under the power lines on the west side of the road and then pop up over the right side (east) power lines; do his repositioning maneuver and then come over the right side (east) power lines and dip below the left side (west) power lines to begin his run. Pretty impressive from my viewpoint!

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Old 02-10-2009, 09:40 AM
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Razorback09, Any questions you have, ask away. I'll be glad to tell you what i know about it.

Good luck to you.
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Old 02-10-2009, 10:06 AM
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USMCFLYR,

The helicopter guys are mostly concentrated out in California, Arizona, with some helicopter work being done across the U.S. As far as the night flying, that too is mostly concentrated in Cal. and Arizona. I think a big reason for that is because they have lots of problems with the general public fussing about the airplanes flying around the house. Also, they raise a lot of bees in those regions, and need to get their spraying done when the bees are in the hive's.

Ag Aviation, as a whole is so far advansed now than even ten years ago that is is rather mind boggling. The chemicals used today are much more "user friendly", The airplanes are no comparison to what we had years ago, as far as safety, productivity, and efficiency. Of course, with all the improvements the price went up on the planes. A new 802 Air Tractor is around 1.2 million or so. My first plane cost around $25,000 new in 1975.

Also adding to the "new" image has been the programs designed to increase safety concienceness in the pilots themselves. We are required to attend "recurrent" training yearly. This usually amounts to a day or two of meetings where the topics range from the lastest chemical products and how to safely handle and apply them to analysis of accidents that have happened. Points being stressed to avoid previous mistakes.

Todays ag pilot/operator has such a personal investment tied up in his or her business that is is in their best interest to do things right and try to keep the spotlight off him/her as much as possible. I heard a very cocky new guy say one time that he loved to "raise hell" in an airplane. The old grizzled veteran ag pilot looked at him and sais, "son, don't go looking for hell cause it's gonna find you quick enough in this business. He was telling him, Don't be a cowboy.

Good luck out there.
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Old 09-28-2009, 10:17 AM
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Agrinaut, will you send me your email address to [email protected]. Thankyou. I would like to talk to you about becominng an ag pilot.
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Old 10-14-2009, 06:45 PM
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I don't think cancer is much of an elevated risk, but it is a good idea to get organophosphate base-line tests done when you get your medical renewed. a good resource is the NAAA: National Agricultural Aviation Association (Crop Dusters - Aviation Careers) and the sprayplane forums: • Index page
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