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When Work Makes You Sick

A Farmworker’s Experience in the Field

Co Authors:

Tracie M. Addy
Center for the Integration of Teaching, Learning and Scholarship
Lafayette College

Catherine E. LePrevost
Department of Applied Ecology
North Carolina State University

Courtney L. McGinnis
Department of Biological Sciences
Quinnipiac University


This case study was inspired by a real-life scenario, and follows the story of Roberto, a migrant farmworker whose health is impacted by the usage of pesticides on a farm.  With the help of a health care provider, Roberto becomes aware of the effects of pesticides on his well-being. Students utilize a database and draw conclusions from data in order to answer the case questions.  The case concludes with an activity that uses the "intimate debate" technique in which students use scientific data as evidence to argue whether or not the pesticide under discussion should be banned from usage.  This case was originally developed for undergraduate anatomy and physiology or toxicology courses. Students are expected to have some background knowledge in nerve structure and function as well as the mechanics of neural transmission before starting the case.

  • Distinguish between acute and chronic toxicity.
  • Hypothesize whether a farmworker experienced acute or chronic toxicity.
  • Hypothesize the most likely route of entry of an organophosphate pesticide.
  • Describe the impact of mevinphos on acetylcholinesterase activity.
  • Describe the impact of acetylcholinesterase activity on acetylcholine levels.
  • Use a database to assess the numbers of pesticide-related illnesses in a given location for a specified time period.
  • Describe the physiological importance of monitoring serum cholinesterase levels over an extended period of time for a mevinphos toxicity case.
  • Propose a potential mechanism for an antidote to mevinphos poisoning.
  • Make an argument for the reregistration or the continued cancellation of mevinphos using reliable resources.
Keywords: pesticides; toxicity; mevinphos; neural transmission; neurons; cholinesterase; acetylcholinesterase; organophosphate; migrant;
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Intimate Debate, Interrupted
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Ecology   Environmental Science   Physiology   Medicine (General)   Public Health   Toxicology  
Date Posted: 1/17/2017
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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