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Logo of oenvmedOccupational and Environmental MedicineVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
Occup Environ Med. 2007 December; 64(12): e43.
PMCID: PMC2095338

Agriculture 2

228 Agricultural cohort consortium

L. E. BeaneFreeman, A. Blair. National Cancer Institute

ObjectivesDisease incidence and mortality patterns in agricultural populations differ from those in the general population for a number of conditions, including cancer, reproductive outcomes, injuries and cardiovascular, neurological, respiratory, kidney and allergic diseases. These differences may be related to unique exposures, such as pesticides, solvents, engine exhaust, biologically active dusts and zoonotic microbes or to different exposure patterns for common factors, such as tobacco, alcohol, diet and physical activity. In September 2006, investigators from several agricultural cohort studies and other interested scientists met to consider developing a consortium of agricultural cohort studies. Such a consortium could stimulate research and fill gaps in knowledge not possible with any individual study.

MethodsWe identified active cohorts that had primary hypotheses related to agricultural exposures or populations. Investigators from each cohort were invited to attend a 2‐day consortium planning meeting. A general overview of each cohort was given, as well as summaries and discussion of some of the research areas where collaboration might be especially advantageous.

ResultsTwelve cohorts were represented, which include more than 1.3 million study participants. There was heterogeneity in size of studies (range: 335–560 000), exposure information available, primary outcomes considered, type of follow‐up, and number and type of biological samples. Despite these differences and other challenges to collaboration, there appear to be a number of opportunities where research could benefit from a consortium, including pooling data for the study of agricultural exposures and rare diseases and evaluating exposure–exposure and gene–exposure interactions for more common diseases. A number of items requiring action were identified, including identifying other potential cohorts for inclusion, developing common definitions of farming and agriculture, further characterising biological specimen collection and storage procedures, collecting more detailed information on disease outcomes and developing a portal or other mechanism to facilitate sharing of information within the group.

ConclusionA consortium of agricultural cohorts could provide a valuable mechanism to expand upon existing resources for studying these unique populations. Plans are being developed for a second meeting of interested PIs. We welcome hearing from leaders of other agricultural cohorts who may wish to participate in this effort.

Key wordsagriculture; cohort studies; consortium

229 Perceived working conditions and occupational risks in Moroccan immigrant workers in Barcelona, Spain

E. Q. Ahonen, V. Porthé, F. G. Benavides, J. Benach. Occupational Health Research Unit, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona

ObjectivesIn the last two decades, Spain has experienced a rapid increase in immigration. Scientific information and administrative data available about the working conditions, occupational risks and health of immigrant workers are practically non‐existent. This study, part of a larger ongoing project, aims to examine working conditions and occupational risks in Moroccan immigrant workers in Barcelona.

MethodsIn this exploratory, descriptive qualitative study we employed criterion sampling. Data were collected through semi‐structured individual interviews with Moroccan women and men in administratively regular and irregular situations, totalling 39 interviews between September 2006 and February 2007. The sessions were recorded and transcribed. We performed a narrative content analysis using a mixed‐generation scheme; predetermined study interests and emergent themes.

ResultsInformants were most often employed in construction, services and agriculture. Undocumented individuals occupied more unskilled positions. Informants reported long hours and few days off. Many undocumented informants also worked night or rotating shifts. Informants were able to name risks associated with their job sectors, especially those in construction. Men complained of a lack of workplace security and control, while the women did not make that observation. Women mentioned that the pace of work disallowed employing safety measures. Informants described numerous minor injuries, which they did not report. However, they were conscious that serious injury would lead to grave consequences due to their lack of social protection. While some documented informants had had training in risk prevention, none of the undocumented had received such training. Many in both groups bought their own individual protective equipment. Workers perceived good health overall, although they mentioned psychological problems such as worry, insomnia and obsessive thinking. This last was particularly evident in undocumented informants; getting their “papers” and achieving economic stability was of primary importance.

ConclusionsBoth groups of workers are characterised by poor working conditions in risky sectors. Their jobs expose them to risks, combined with a great necessity to work and maintain their health. Additionally, they had little experience and less preventive training in their posts. While workers had some physical health complaints, mental health concerns related to the instability they lived in were more evident.

Key wordsimmigrant workers; occupational health; working conditions

230 Health hazard due to exposure to pesticide in the Katazar area of Barpeta district, Assam, India

R. Hazarika. M C College, Barpeta, Assam, India

ObjectivesThe indiscriminate use of pesticides in agricultural fields is a most hazardous operation as these can cause health risks along with impairment of the normal physiological activity of the workers. The formulation manufacturers and applicators are occupationally exposed to pesticides. They constitute a high risk population group. Applicators are of especial significance since they handle more than one pesticide for a long time and are exposed for their entire life span. Therefore a study was undertaken to assess the health risks of pesticide applicators exposed to a combination of organochlorine and organophosphorus pesticides in the Katazar area of Barpeta district, Assam, India.

MethodsIn the Barpeta district some places were selected randomly from the Katazar area such as Barpetaroad, Bashbari and Kairabari. Widely used pesticides were melathion (50c10%), BHC (10%dust), dimethiate (90%EC,5%) and carboryl (20%EC,2–5%dust). There was no definite work schedule for the workers. They sprayed for 2–4 h a day in a particular season. So, the exposures were recorded in terms of the week. All the workers were male and within the age group of 28.38 (SD 5.46) years and exposed for a period of 10–20 h and above. A group of 40 subjects comparable in socio‐economic status but not occupationally exposed to pesticides, were studied as the control. No protective devices were used by the applicators. Of course normal hygienic measure such as washing of hands and faces before and after meals are being practiced. All the exposed and control subjects were normally healthy with no clinical illness (as recorded from personal interview).

ResultsExposed applicators were divided in to three groups – mildly exposed for up to 1 month, moderately exposed for between 1 month and 1 year, and individuals. However, symptoms disappear when they stop using pesticides. A significant depression in AChE was observed in the applicators as compared to controls. It was observed that subjects with only psychological symptoms had less depressions of whole blood AChE activity than subjects with the subjects with gastrointestinal and cardio‐respiratory symptoms. The result of overall observation showed that toxic symptoms in exposed individual were due to the effects of OC and OP pesticides; neurotoxic, psychological, gastrointestinal and cardio‐respiratory symptoms were mainly due to OP pesticides.

ConclusionThe present investigation revealed that the health risks for pesticide applicators of the Katazar area are a matter of concern. Extensive investigation of the risk assessment of agricultural pesticide applicators is necessary.

Key wordspesticide applicators; exposure; health risk assessment

231 Pesticide exposure in farmers: contamination during treatment days in vine‐growing and open field in France (PESTEXPO study)

I. Baldi1, P. Lebailly2, M. Barrau1, V. Bouchart3, Y. Lecluse2, A. Garrigou1,4. 1LSTE, ISPED, Université Bordeaux 2; 2Centre François Baclesse, Université de Caen; 3Laboratoire Frank Duncombe, Caen; 4LSTE, ISPED, Université Bordeaux 1

ObjectivesThe aim of the PESTEXPO project is to develop indexes for estimating individual exposure to pesticides in farm workers and farmers, to be used in epidemiological studies on the health effects of pesticides.

MethodsThe first step consisted of field studies to describe levels of external contamination under usual conditions of use during mixing, spraying and equipment cleaning. We present here a synthesis of the data obtained in the open field (Normandy) and a vine growing (Bordeaux) area from 2001 to 2005. We both performed detailed field observations and monitored external contamination during treatment days. Dermal exposure was assessed following OECD guidelines. Pesticides chosen as exposure markers were widely and for decades used in these settings: the herbicides isoproturon, sulfonylureas and tricetones in the open field, the fungicides dithiocarbamates and folpet in vineyards. Results were expressed in quantity of active ingredient, formulation (mixing), or quantity of mixture (spraying, cleaning) likely to deposit on the skin of the operators.

ResultsA hundred seventy‐nine treatment days with tractors were observed and provided levels of dermal loading in each setting, at each phase (mixing, spraying, cleaning), and for each part of the body (hands, head, trunk, arms, forearms, legs and forelegs). Briefly, the median (minimum, maximum) of the dermal loading was 40.5 mg (0.4–3358.2) for dithiocarbamates and 9.6 mg (0.6–78.5) for folpet in vineyards, and 37.9 mg (1.4–302.2) for isoproturon, 1.0 mg (0.0–18.3) for sulfonylureas, 4.4 mg (0.0–536.7) for tricetones in open field. For mixing, the dermal loading was expressed in quantity of formulation ranged from 4.4 mg for folpet, followed by sulfonylureas, dithiocarbamates and tricetones (around 25 mg), to 49.9 mg for isoproturon. For spraying, the dermal loading expressed in quantity of mixture ranged from 0.4 ml (folpet) to 1.9 ml (dithiocarbamates). For cleaning in vineyards, the contamination was around 0.4 ml of mixture.

ConclusionThis is the first description of contamination levels during pesticide treatment in French agriculture. Distribution of the levels in the two settings and for the five pesticides are wide but overlap in part. Differences between active ingredients can be explained by variations in agronomic conditions (quantities/ha) and conditions of use (equipment).

Key wordspesticide; agriculture; exposure assessment

232 Pesticide exposure and farm safety among farmers

Y. C. Chang1, J. L. Lu2. 1Sophia Mineral Services; 2National institutes of Health, University of the Philippines, Manila

ObjectivesThis study was conducted to look into health and safety assessment among vegetable growers in the Philippines.

MethodsThis was a case‐control study that was conducted among vegetable farmers in the Philippines consisting of 211 respondents. Methodology consisted of questionnaire survey, physical assessment, blood monitoring and environmental monitoring. The results showed that 74% of the respondents became ill because of work exposure.

ResultsStatistical analyses showed that pesticide exposure is positively associated with the following: weakness (p = 0.021), easy fatigability (p = 0.036), muscle pain (p = 0.0001), headache (p = 0.0001), fever (p = 0.001), weight loss (p = 0.017), eye redness (p = 0.004), loss of appetite (p = 0.001), paralysis (p = 0.0001) and contracting sickness during the last 12 months because of work (p = 0.0001). Also, it is 4.5 times more likely for highly exposed farmers who spray against the wind to experience paralysis than for those who spray relative to the wind. Logistic regression showed that pesticide related signs and symptoms were associated with illness for the past 12 months, amount of pesticide used, spraying against the wind, re‐entering a recently spayed area, and wiping sweat off with a contaminated fabric. The odds ratio of having an abnormal RBC cholinesterase among respondents with “high” exposure in this study was elevated: 1.048. The study showed that there is indeed an association between pesticide exposure with risk factors, with health symptoms, and with an abnormal RBC cholinesterase.

ConclusionThe data can be used for the formulation of an integrated program on safety and health in the vegetable industry and for the development of proper safety and monitoring standards in the agricultural industry.

Key wordspesticide exposure; vegetable farmers; health and safety assessment

233 Use of a database for pesticide exposure assessment in case‐control studies

N. Schmeißer, B. Mester, W. Ahrens. Bremen Institute for Prevention Research and Social Medicine, University of Bremen

ObjectivesQuantitative exposure assessment receives increasing attention. In retrospective studies a general objective measure is not possible for body‐burden in pesticide exposure. To assess body‐burden in occupational pesticide exposure in case‐control studies a database query was carried out.

Methods TheEUROPOEM database was queried in April 2006. The query was fitted to information in case‐control studies, that is the different scenarios of application/exposure and a restriction to classes of crops. If no crop was reported, the query was unrestricted for crops. Dose of exposure in the agriculture/forestry sector was preferably calculated in mg/ha. If no information on area was given, dose of exposure was calculated from mg/ha to mg/h. For livestock farming and greenhouse exposure, the query was restricted to indoor spraying. We proposed a maximum of 1.40 m distance. Personal protection equipment use was differentiated into wearing overalls, wearing gloves and use of inhalation protection. The yielded median of the query was assumed as the body‐burden for no use and the lower quartile for (part) usage. Bystander exposure was rated as 10% of applicator exposure regarding personal protection. Two case‐control studies (testicular cancer (TC) and cancer of the bile tract (EBT)) with the same questionnaire were used to test this tool.

ResultsCalculated dose of lifetime exposure ranged from 9 to 2607 mg (bystanders), 1–43 450 mg (applicators) and 52–142 695 mg for mixing/loading/application (TC study). In the international study on bile tract cancer, we found plausible differences between job titles (cases: agriculture: n = 21, mean 241 734 mg; livestock: n = 6, mean 14 661 mg; slaughtering: n = 1, 25 212 mg; forestry: n = 0; controls: agriculture: n = 98, mean 187 039 mg; livestock: n = 57, mean 12 761 mg; slaughtering: n = 2, mean 5853 mg; forestry: n = 8, mean 103 120 mg). In both studies we had an additional failure rate between 1% and 3% to calculate potential dose because of lacking interview information.

ConclusionThe EUROPOEM database is a helpful tool for pesticide exposure modelling. To use this database, we have to refine the methods, because a high proportion of exposed men could not be assessed.

Key wordspesticide exposure; case‐control study; exposure assessment

234 Enrolment in the cohort study “Agrican” on the causes of death and cancer incidence among French farmers and agricultural workers

P. Lebailly1, E. Niez2, I. Baldi3, N. Leveque2, C. Meyer2, AgricanCommitee4. 1Centre Baclesse/Université de Caen; 2Centre Baclesse; 3Université de Bordeaux 2; 4MSA and cancer registries

ObjectivesTo study cancer risk associated with farming activities (pesticides, mycotoxins) in a large prospective cohort study.

MethodsA large extension of a small cohort of 6000 farmers initiated in 1995 in Calvados is currently on‐going and concerns all active and retired farmers and farm workers identified through the specialised health insurance MSA from all geographical areas (11 departments) with a population‐based general cancer registry. A self‐administered questionnaire is sent to around 570 000 people. The targeted sample includes all individuals aged 18 or older on the 1st January 2005, with a present address in the geographical area of the study and having worked for more than 3 years in agricultural activities. The targeted population includes overall 51% retired (50% males) workers, and for active individuals, 64% are male. The number of individuals increases from 26 713 (Haut Rhin, east of France) to 92 584 (Gironde, south west of France). The questionnaire includes information regarding individual characteristics (demographic data allowing the follow‐up of individuals, non‐occupational risk factors like smoking and dietary habits) and occupational exposures from agricultural activities.

ResultsAfter the first sending of the questionnaire (November 2005–March 2006), more than 116 000 individuals were included (20% participation rate). The questionnaire was sent a second time (January–June 2007) to all non‐responders and the overall participation rate for the first five areas reached 30% (40 000 new included individuals). The first description of responders and non‐responders demonstrated no major differences. However, younger females and older males were included more often. Individuals being farm workers in open field farming or agricultural workers in truck activities were less frequently included.

ConclusionAt the end of summer 2007, the total included population will reach 200 000. If enrolled individuals are still similar to the targeted sample, 60% would be males, including 56% active or retired farmers (67 000 individuals). Females would be more frequently agricultural workers, but also 36 000 of them would be farmers. Roughly 50% of farmers would be involved in open field farming, 40% in beef cattle and 25% in wine growing.

Key wordscohort; agriculture; cancer

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