Effect of chronic pesticide exposure in farm workers of a Mexico community

Arch Environ Occup Health. 2012;67(1):22-30. doi: 10.1080/19338244.2011.564230.


Pesticides are frequently used substances worldwide, even when the use of some of them is forbidden due to the recognized adverse effect they have on the health of not only the people who apply the pesticides, but also of those that consume the contaminated products. The objectives of this study were to know the health issues of farm workers chronically exposed to pesticides, to evaluate possible damage at genetic level, as well as to explore some hepatic, renal, and hematological alterations. A transversal comparative study was performed between 2 groups, one composed of 25 farm workers engaged in pesticide spraying, and a control group of 21 workers not exposed to pesticides; both groups belonged to the Nextipac community in Jalisco, Mexico. Each member of both groups underwent a full medical history. Blood samples were taken from all farm workers in order to obtain a complete blood count and chemistry, clinical chemistry, lipid profile, liver and kidney function tests, erythrocyte cholinesterase quantification, lipid peroxidation profile, and free DNA fragment quantification. For the information analysis, central tendency and dispersion measurements were registered. In order to know the differences between groups, a cluster multivariate method was used, as well as prevalence reasons. The most used pesticides were mainly organophosphates, triazines and organochlorine compounds. The exposed group showed acute poisoning (20% of the cases) and diverse alterations of the digestive, neurological, respiratory, circulatory, dermatological, renal, and reproductive system probably associated to pesticide exposure. More importantly, they presented free DNA fragments in plasma (90.8 vs 49.05 ng/mL) as well as a higher level of lipid peroxidation (41.85 vs. 31.91 nmol/mL) in comparison with those data from unexposed farm workers. These results suggest that there exist health hazards for those farm workers exposed to pesticides, at organic and cellular levels.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / genetics
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / metabolism
  • Agrochemicals / toxicity
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cholinesterases / metabolism
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • DNA Fragmentation*
  • Erythrocytes / enzymology
  • Herbicides / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Kidney Function Tests
  • Lipid Peroxidation*
  • Liver Function Tests
  • Male
  • Mexico
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis
  • Organophosphates / toxicity


  • Agrochemicals
  • Herbicides
  • Insecticides
  • Organophosphates
  • Cholinesterases