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Adverse Respiratory Health and Hematological Alterations among Agricultural Workers Occupationally Exposed to Organophosphate Pesticides: A Cross-Sectional Study in North India

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069755
  • Research Article
  • Agriculture
  • Agrochemicals
  • Pesticides
  • Pest Control
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Enzymes
  • Population Biology
  • Population Ecology
  • Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Biostatistics
  • Medicine
  • Clinical Research Design
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Epidemiology
  • Survey Research
  • Environmental Epidemiology
  • Epidemiological Methods
  • Social Epidemiology
  • Survey Methods
  • Hematology
  • Public Health
  • Occupational And Industrial Health
  • Pulmonology
  • Environmental And Occupational Lung Diseases
  • Toxicology
  • Toxic Agents
  • Agricultural Science
  • Design


Background Non-protective work practices followed by farm workers during spraying of pesticides lead to occupational exposure among them. Objective This study is designed to explore the respiratory health and hematological profile of agricultural workers occupationally exposed to OP pesticides. Materials and Methods A cross sectional study was undertaken among 166 pesticide sprayers working in mango orchards of Lucknow district in North India compared with 77 controls to assess the respiratory illness, lung functions, cholinesterase levels and hematological profile. A questionnaire based survey and clinical examination for respiratory health were conducted among study subjects. Lung function test was conducted among study subjects by using spirometer. Cholinesterase level as biomarker of OP pesticides and hematological profile of study subjects were investigated in the laboratory by following the standard protocols. Results Overall respiratory morbidity observed among exposed subjects was 36.75%. Symptoms for respiratory illness like dry cough, productive cough, wheezing, irritation of throat and blood stained sputum were found to be significantly more (p<0.05) among pesticide sprayers than controls. Lung function parameters viz. PEFR, FEV1, %PEFR predicted, %FEV1 predicted and FEV1/FVC were found to be significantly decreased (p<0.05) among pesticide sprayers as compared to controls. Exposure wise distribution of respiratory illness and lung functions among pesticide sprayers show that the exposure duration significantly elevates (p<0.05) the respiratory problems and significantly decreases (p<0.001) lung functions among pesticide sprayers. Activities of acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase were found to be significantly depleted (p<0.001) among pesticide sprayers as compared to controls which show the exposure of OP pesticides among them. The hematological profile viz. RBC, WBC, monocytes, neutrophils, MCV, MCH, MCHC and platelet count were significantly altered (p<0.001) in pesticide sprayers than controls. Conclusion This study shows that the unsafe occupational exposure of OP pesticides causes respiratory illness, decreased lung functions and hematological alterations among pesticide sprayers.

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