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Inhal Toxicol. 2008 Jul;20(9):839-49. doi: 10.1080/08958370801905524 .

Low level of exposure to pesticides leads to lung dysfunction in occupationally exposed subjects.

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Department of Legal Medicine and Toxicology, University of Granada Medical School, Granada, Spain.


Pesticides may contribute to adverse respiratory health effects among farmers and have been considered one causal factor for the rise in asthma prevalence. This cross-sectional study was conducted to evaluate potential respiratory function abnormalities following long-term pesticide exposure by means of a complete pulmonary function testing, including spirometry, lung volumes, and diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide. The study population was comprised by workers from a prominent intensive agriculture area of southern Spain that relied on pesticides for the control of plagues. Eighty-nine pesticide sprayers of plastic greenhouse farming and a control group of 25 nonspraying control farmers from the same area were interviewed by a general practitioner asking about sociodemographic factors, occupational exposure, and clinical symptoms by using a structured questionnaire. Multiple regression analyses showed a relationship of short-term exposure to pesticides (as indicated by a drop in serum cholinesterase > 25% of baseline levels) with reduced forced expired volume in 1 s, and of long-term exposure (as indicated by a cumulative pesticide exposure index) with reduced forced expiratory flow rate. Exposure to bipyridilium-class herbicides was a determinant of a fall in the diffusing capacity of the lungs, and neonicotinoid insecticides showed a relationship with lower pulmonary volumes (total lung capacity, residual volume, and functional residual capacity), suggestive of restrictive lung disease, and with an increased risk of reporting irritative symptoms.

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