Occupational asthma symptoms and respiratory function among aerial pesticide applicators

Am J Ind Med. 2003 Apr;43(4):407-17. doi: 10.1002/ajim.10201.


Background: Pesticide exposure has been suggested as one causal factor for the rise in asthma prevalence. The goal of this investigation was to determine the effect of pesticide exposure on respiratory symptoms and lung function in workers with occupational exposure to pesticides.

Methods: A prospective, case-controlled study was conducted among pesticide aviators (AV) and community controls (Con). In Phase I, subjects completed an asthma survey and baseline spirometry. In Phase II, subjects reported symptoms, lung function monitoring, and pesticide exposure during two, 14-day periods.

Results: Phase I-Self-reported asthma and symptoms were similar among AV (n = 135) and Con (n = 118) with 4-6% prevalence reported but with higher rates among smokers. Baseline lung function was similar; although, a higher proportion of AV had forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV(1)) <80% predicted (8% vs. 2%, P = 0.02). Phase II-Self-reported symptoms were similar with 80% of AV (n = 50) and 73% of Con (n = 49) reporting no symptoms. Only 4% of AV and 6% of controls reported increased symptoms from baseline to spray season. Serial lung function did not differ between group and mean diurnal variation in peak expiratory flow improved in both groups between sampling times (AV 18% vs. 14%; Con 19% vs. 16%, P < 0.001).

Conclusions: This study suggests that among workers with occupational pesticide exposure, asthma symptoms and lung function are similar to those of controls with only community-based exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / epidemiology
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / etiology*
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / physiopathology
  • Aircraft*
  • Arkansas / epidemiology
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Pesticides / adverse effects*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Spirometry
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Pesticides