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Toxicology. 2013 May 10;307:123-35. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2012.10.009. Epub 2012 Oct 29.

Pesticide induced immunotoxicity in humans: a comprehensive review of the existing evidence.

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Laboratory of Toxicology, Dipartimento di Scienze Farmacologiche e Biomolecolari, Università degli Studi di Milano, Via Balzaretti 9, 20133 Milan, Italy.


The immune system can be the target of many chemicals, with potentially severe adverse effects on the host's health. In Western countries pesticides, together with new and modified patterns of exposure to chemicals, have been implicated in the increasing prevalence of diseases associated with alterations of the immune response, such as hypersensitivity reactions, certain autoimmune diseases and cancers. Xenobiotics may initiate, facilitate or exacerbate pathological immune processes, resulting in immunotoxicity by induction of mutations in genes coding for immunoregulatory factors, modifying immune tolerance and activation pathways. The purpose of this article is to update the evidence of pesticide immunotoxicity. Even if experimental data as well as sporadic human studies indicate that some pesticides can affect the immune system, overall, existing epidemiological studies are inadequate to raise conclusions on the immunotoxic risk associated to pesticide exposure. The available studies on the effects of pesticides on human immune system have several limitations including poor indication on exposure levels, multiple chemical exposures, heterogeneity of the approach, and difficulty in giving a prognostic significance to the slight changes often observed. Further studies are necessary, and they should be preferably carried out through comparison of pre and post-exposure findings in the same group of subjects with a matched control group. Attempt should be made to define the prognostic significance of slight changes often observed. Animal and in vitro studies are also important and necessary to scientifically support epidemiological evidences on pesticide-induced immunotoxicity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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