Adverse health effects of pesticides in agrarian populations of developing countries

Rev Environ Contam Toxicol. 2009;200:33-52. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4419-0028-9_2.


Developing countries use only 20% of the world's agrochemicals, yet they suffer 99% of deaths from pesticide poisoning. Pesticide poisoning is a significant problem in developing countries primarily because of unsafe pesticide application and handling practices. Safety is further exacerbated by the illiteracy and poverty that prevails in most farming communities of developing countries. Pesticides classified as being extremely or highly hazardous by FAO and WHO, including those banned by other countries, continue to be used in developing countries. Many farmers in developing countries continue to be exposed to pesticides from either storing them in or near their residences, or from inadequate or unsafe application or handling practices. Farming populations exposed to pesticides suffer from several health problems, primarily neurological abnormalities, respiratory ailments, and reproductive, endocrinological, and dermal problems. In developing countries, the scientific literature (including the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, India) have taken the initiative to monitor health problems resulting from pesticide exposure in agrarian communities. The welfare fund for agricultural laborers could institute a special program for pesticide applicators in developing countries. The primary need, currently, in such countries is creation and implementation of sound national policies to effectively articulate appropriate guidelines for managing farm pest control activities. Such policies should be aimed at both limiting pesticide exposure and usage, but doing so without damaging the yields of food production. If such steps are taken, it is fully expected that the incidence of adverse health consequences for agrarian populations from pesticide toxicity will decrease, and the health of farmers improve.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Developing Countries
  • Humans
  • India
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Pesticides / adverse effects*


  • Pesticides