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Mutagenesis. 2002 Sep;17(5):391-7.

Micronucleus monitoring of a floriculturist population from western Liguria, Italy.

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Unità di Valutazione Tossicologica, Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro, IST, Largo R.Benzi 10, 16132 Genoa, Italy.


A biomonitoring study was carried out to investigate whether exposure to complex pesticide mixtures in ornamental crop production represents a potential genotoxic risk. Exposed and control subjects were selected in western Liguria (Italy). The area was chosen for its intensive use of pesticides. The main crops produced were roses, mimosas, carnations and chrysanthemums, as ornamental non-edible plants, and tomato, lettuce and basil, as edible ones. The levels of micronuclei (MN) were analysed in peripheral blood lymphocytes of 107 floriculturists (92 men and 15 women) and 61 control subjects (42 men and 19 women). A statistically significant increase in binucleated cells with micronuclei (BNMN) was detected in floriculturists with respect to the control population (4.41 +/- 2.14 MN/1000 cells versus 3.04 +/- 2.14, P < 0.001). The mean number of BNMN varied as a function of sex and age. Smoking habit had no effect on MN frequency. A positive correlation between years of farming and MN frequency in peripheral blood lymphocytes was observed (r = 0.30, P = 0.02). The conditions of exposure were also associated with an increase in cytogenetic damage, with a 28% higher MN frequency in greenhouse workers compared with subjects working only outdoors in fields. Workers not using protective measures during high exposure activities showed an increase in MN frequency. Our findings suggest a potential genotoxic risk due to pesticide exposure.

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