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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 95-101

Chronic pesticide exposure: Health effects among pesticide sprayers in Southern India

1 Department of Community Health, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India
3 Department of Accident and Emergency Medicine, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India

Correspondence Address:
Venkata Raghava Mohan
Department of Community Health, Christian Medical College, Vellore - 632 002, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: Fluid Research Grant, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Conflict of Interest: None declared.

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5278.165334

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Background: Occupational health has never been a priority for policy makers in India, despite 63% of the Indian population being in the economically productive age group. Objectives: The study was designed to find out the morbidity as a result of long-term exposure to pesticides among professional pesticide sprayers in a rural block in Tamil Nadu. Subjects and Methods: A cross-sectional study was done in Kaniyambadi block of Vellore district, Tamil Nadu, during July to October 2013. A total of 70 professional pesticide sprayers and 66 people engaged in other occupations were enrolled into the study. The participants were administered a standardized questionnaire apart from measuring pulmonary function and peripheral sensations. Venous blood samples were collected for measuring serum cholinesterase. Results: The pesticide sprayers had higher prevalence of breathlessness on activities of daily living (odds ratio [OR]: 3.14, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.22–8.07), chronic cough/phlegm (OR: 3.53, 95% CI: 1.09–11.46), symptoms of peripheral sensory neuropathy (OR: 6.66, 95% CI: 2.53–17.51) and recurrent abdominal pain (OR: 3.05, 95% CI: 1.03–9.01), when compared to people engaged in other occupations. Pesticide sprayers also had significantly lower mean peak expiratory low rates and poor peripheral sensations. The serum cholinesterase levels were not statistically different between the groups. Conclusion: The pesticide sprayers had a higher morbidity when compared to people engaged in other occupations, and further research is needed to find out methods to prevent the same. Serum cholinesterase may not be a good marker for quantifying exposure to pesticide among sprayers, during a spraying season.


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