Effects of pesticides on the respiratory health of agricultural workers

First author [ref.]CountrySummary of methodStatistically significant main findings
PopulationPesticide exposureHealth outcomes
Respiratory diseases: asthma and bronchitis
 Senthilselvan [25]Canada1939 farmersOrganophosphate, organochlorine, carbamate insecticidesSelf-reported respiratory symptomsIncreased asthma with carbamate insecticide use
 Kang [26]USA1499 Vietnam veterans/ 1428 non-Vietnam veteransSprayed herbicides (Agent Orange)Self-reported; chronic medical condition diagnosed by a doctorIncreased chronic bronchitis and asthma, elevated among Vietnam veterans who sprayed herbicides versus non-Vietnam veterans
 Bener [27]United Arab Emirates98 farmers/98 controlsPesticides (not specified)Lifelong respiratory symptomsIncreased chronic cough and asthma in farmers versus controls
 Salameh [28]Lebanon245 asthma cases/ 262 controlsPesticides (not specified)Confirmation of asthma by lung specialistIncreased asthma with any exposure to pesticides
 Salameh [29]Lebanon110 chronic bronchitis cases/262 controlsPesticides (not specified)Confirmation of chronic bronchitis by lung specialistIncreased chronic bronchitis according to increase in intensity and/or duration of different levels of exposure to pesticides
Respiratory symptoms
 Zuskin [30]Croatia167 exposed/81 unexposed workersPesticides (not specified)Lifelong respiratory symptomsIncreased chronic cough, dyspnoea and chest tightness in exposed females versus controls (p<0.01)
 Zuskin [31]Croatia174 exposed/115 unexposed workersPesticides (not specified)Pulmonary function measures (spirometry)Increased chronic cough and chronic phlegm (p<0.05) in workers employed for >10 years
 Castro-Gutiérrez [32]Nicaragua134 paraquat exposed/ 152 unexposed workersParaquatRespiratory symptoms during the last 24 monthsIncreased episodic wheezing accompanied by shortness of breath among the more intensely exposed workers
 Wilkins [33]USA1793 farmersPesticides (not specified)Respiratory symptoms during the last 12 monthsIncreased chronic cough with lifetime tractor operations
 Sprince [34]USA385 farmersAgricultural pesticides (insecticides for crops and livestock, and herbicides)Respiratory symptomsIncreased ever-wheezy chest due to applying pesticides to livestock
 Beseler [35]USA761 farm operators and spousesAgricultural pesticides (not specified)History of respiratory disorders and symptomsIncreased wheeze with pesticide poisoning in current smokers
 Masley [36]Canada511 males, 499 females and 393 childrenPesticides and fertilisersRespiratory symptoms during lifeIncrease in one or more respiratory symptoms (cough, phlegm, wheeze or shortness of breath) with pesticide exposure
 Schenker [37]Costa Rica219 farm workers/110 controlsParaquatRespiratory symptomsIncreased shortness of breath with wheeze with each unit increase in the total cumulative paraquat index
 Fieten [38]Costa Rica69 exposed/58 unexposed workersTerbufos, chlorpyrifos, paraquatRespiratory symptoms during past yearIncreased wheeze with exposure to the organophosphate insecticides chlorpyrifos and terbufos in nonsmokers
 Faria [39]Brazil1379 farmersOrganophosphates, pyrethroids and dithiocarbamatesSelf-reported asthma and chronic respiratory diseasesIncreased asthma symptoms and chronic respiratory disease symptoms with pesticide poisoning
 Ejigu [40]Ethiopia82 farm workers/47 controlsAgricultural pesticides (not specified)Lifelong respiratory symptomsIncreased prevalence of respiratory symptoms, including cough, phlegm and wheeze in farm workers versus controls (p<0.05)
 Pathak [41]India108 pesticide sprayers/ 30 controlsAgricultural pesticidesRespiratory symptomsIncreased respiratory symptoms with tractor-mounted sprayers compared to controls
 Ngowi [42]Tanzania133 coffee farm workersAgricultural pesticides: fungicides, insecticides and herbicidesRespiratory symptoms during spraying and nonspraying seasonsNo significant association
 Jones [43]USA100 pilots (aerial spraying of pesticides)/100 controlsAgricultural pesticidesRespiratory symptomsNo significant association
 Abu Sham'a [44]Palestine250 farmersAgricultural pesticides not specifiedRespiratory symptoms during the last 12 monthsNo significant association
Respiratory function
 Mekonnen [45]Ethiopia102 pesticide sprayers/ 69 non-sprayersPesticides on the farms: chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathionPulmonary function measurementsDecreased lung volumes (reduced FVC and FEV1) in the 15–24-year age group of pesticide sprayers compared to similarly aged non-sprayers
 Hernández [46]Spain89 pesticide sprayers/ 25 unexposed farm workers10 agricultural pesticidesPhysical examination during the peak spraying seasonDecreased FEF25–75% with lifelong cumulative exposure to pesticides; decreased lung volumes (restrictive disease) with recent exposure to neonicotinoids
 Chakraborty [47]India376 exposed/348 controlsAgricultural pesticidesPulmonary function measurementsDecreased lung function in exposed workers compared to controls (p<0.001)
 Cha [48]South Korea2508 paraquat applicators/374 non-paraquat applicatorsParaquatReport of doctor-diagnosed symptoms/diseases: COPD and asthma; pulmonary function measurementsDecreased restrictive ventilatory defect with paraquat application
  • All the studies were cross-sectional except those of Salameh and co-workers [28, 29], which were case–control studies. FVC: forced vital capacity; FEV1: forced expiratory volume in 1 s; FEF25–75%: forced expiratory flow at 25–75% of FVC; COPD: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.