Key considerations for assessing soil ingestion exposures among agricultural workers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Soil ingestion is a critical, yet poorly characterized route of exposure to contaminants, particularly for agricultural workers who have frequent, direct contact with soil. Objective: This qualitative investigation aims to identify and characterize key considerations for translating agricultural workers’ soil ingestion experiences into recommendations to improve traditional exposure science tools for estimating soil ingestion. Methods: We conducted qualitative in-depth interviews with 16 fruit and vegetable growers in Maryland to characterize their behaviors and concerns regarding soil contact in order to characterize the nature of soil ingestion in the agricultural context. Results: We identified and discussed four emergent themes: (1) variability in growers’ descriptions of soil and dust, (2) variability in growers’ soil contact, (3) growers’ concerns regarding soil contact, (4) growers’ practices to modify soil contact. We also identified environmental and behavioral factors and six specific agricultural tasks that may impact soil ingestion rates. Significance: Our investigation fills an important gap in occupational exposure science methodology by providing four key considerations that should be integrated into indirect measurement tools for estimating soil ingestion rates in the agricultural context. Specifically, a task-based framework may provide a structure for future investigations of soil contact that may be useful in other populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-492
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2022


  • Agriculture
  • Exposure factor
  • Farmers
  • Soil ingestion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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