Green Tobacco Sickness




Green Tobacco Sickness
By: Wendy Ray

Kentucky tobacco farmers could be in for more than they've bargained for this season and it doesn't have to do with their lack of a good crop. Farmers could get sick when they harvest.

It's called green tobacco sickness.
It's caused by the nicotine on tobacco leaves dissolving into a person's skin, especially if the leaves are wet
. Since we've had a wet summer, the risk of farmers getting green tobacco sickness is greater this year.

Tobacco fields are a familiar sight in western Kentucky, but plush green leaves which can bring in big profits, could cause some big problems for farmers this year. Bill Green, a county extension agent with the University of Kentucky says, "There's a little bit of it every year. It seems to be a bigger problem this year, the tobacco seems to be a bit more green, more lush this year than the past few years." And this puts farmers at a greater risk of getting green tobacco sickness. Most farmers build a tolerance to nicotine exposure, but not all. Every now and then, a farmer in western Kentucky is affected by the sickness. "There are less people using tobacco products who are working in tobacco, they don't have a natural tolerance to nicotine build-up," Green says. "Another reason is we've had a wet year, leaves are more lush and there could be more nicotine on them." And for those people who are not used to nicotine in their systems, it can act as a poison or a toxin that takes a little while for their bodies to clean out. Symptoms of green tobacco sickness range from mild to severe, and can include anything from nausea, to vomiting, stomach cramps, and even changes in your blood pressure or heart rate.

Green also says most of the time, farmers or other people working in tobacco fields who feel sick usually just stay away from them for a while. Farmers can wear rain gear and gloves for protection and take showers throughout the day to protect themselves from this sickness.