Exposure to pesticides may lead to heart attack or stroke among farmers, says study

Aloe Vera
Representational picture Reuters

High exposure to pesticides may be linked with the development of cardiovascular diseases (CVD), a study from the Kuakini Honolulu Heart Program has suggested.

According to the study, a trend between age-adjusted CVD -- coronary heart disease and a cerebrovascular incident such as a stroke -- and high levels of pesticide exposure was observed by researchers during a follow up of Japanese American men since 1965.

"Healthcare providers should be aware of pesticide exposure occupational health risks, especially in the agricultural population," argued Zara K. Berg, PhD, MS, at the department of complementary and integrative medicine at the University of Hawaii, and added long as well as short term chemical exposures needed to be documented in individual medical records.

The study also found low to moderate exposure to pesticide linked with nonsignificant trends of incident CVD when adjusted for age, BMI and systolic BP.

The findings published in the Journal of American Heart Association, however, suggested no significant association when researchers analyzed outcomes of incident CHD and cerebrovascular accidents separately, and the results were attributed to a smaller number of outcomes having inadequate power to observe any differences.

"This could potentially be due to the hormesis principle which says low-dose exposures to some toxic agents may be protective in some individuals and stimulate homeostasis of the organism," the researcher explained.

The researchers did not provide data to back the assessment that used Occupational Safety Health Administration exposure scale, and was based on analysis of 7,557 Japanese American men (with incident CVD, n = 2,549; mean age, 55 years; systolic BP, 139 mm Hg; without incident CVD, n = 5,028; mean age, 54 years; systolic BP, 131 mm Hg).

The participants underwent high occupational exposure (6percent), low to moderate exposure (1.5percent) or no exposure to pesticides (93 percent).

"The data could identify subject groups such as those involved in agriculture and the manufacturing of pesticides, who may be at higher risk of developing CVD," Berg said, adding the study highlighted the importance of measures adopted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, including protective gear to limit occupational exposure to pesticides, reduce the increased risk of developing CVD, and other diseases associated with pesticide exposure.

"Pesticides have a long half-life and exist in the body for a long time, so side effects may appear even 10-20 years later," Berg explained, adding that pesticides exposure could "affect cholesterol and the concentration of heavy metals in the body."