Low-level exposure to organophosphate pesticides leads to restrictive lung dysfunction

Respir Med. 2005 Oct;99(10):1319-24. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2005.02.001.


Apart from symptomology, there are very few reports on lung function following exposure to low levels of organophosphate (OP) pesticides in man. Twenty-five occupationally exposed farmers and 22 environmentally exposed freshwater fishermen were evaluated between and during OP spray seasons. Forty marine fishermen living away from agricultural areas were recruited as a control group. Forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV(1)) were measured by spirometry. Haemoglobin corrected erythrocyte acetylcholinesterase (AChE) levels were measured during and between (baseline estimation) spray seasons using a portable WHO-approved Test-mate system (EQM Research, Ohio). FVC ratio was lower in the farmers as compared to the controls (P<0.001) between exposure seasons. In the farmers, FVC ratio decreased further during the exposure season (P=0.023). FEV(1) was lower in the farmers as compared to the controls in both periods (P<0.05). In the fishermen, the decrease in ratios of FVC and FEV(1) following exposure to pesticides was not significant. FEV(1)/FVC ratios were similar in the three groups between (P=0.988) and during (P=0.159) exposure periods. Following exposure to OPs, AChE levels dropped 12.75% in the farmers (P<0.001) and 5.62% in the freshwater fishermen (P=0.001). Occupational exposure to OP results in restrictive lung dysfunction, a phenomenon not observed following environmental exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase / blood*
  • Adult
  • Agriculture*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Fisheries*
  • Forced Expiratory Volume / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Male
  • Maximal Expiratory Flow Rate / drug effects
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / toxicity*
  • Sri Lanka
  • Vital Capacity / drug effects


  • Biomarkers
  • Insecticides
  • Organophosphorus Compounds
  • Acetylcholinesterase