Asthma associated with pesticide exposure among women in rural Western Cape of South Africa

Am J Ind Med. 2014 Dec;57(12):1331-43. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22384. Epub 2014 Oct 27.


Background: Few studies have investigated asthma and pesticides among women farm workers in developing countries.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted to investigate the association between pesticides and asthma among rural women (n = 211). Outcome measurements included respiratory symptoms (European Community Respiratory Health Survey questionnaire), immunological status (Phadiatop, serum IgE to mite allergens) and lower airway inflammation (fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) levels). Exposure variables included self-reported pesticide exposure and whole blood cholinesterase (ChE).

Results: The prevalence of ocular-nasal symptoms (ONS), doctor-diagnosed asthma and current asthma was 24%, 11%, and 6% respectively. ONS was positively associated with re-entering a sprayed field (OR = 2.97; CI: 0.93-9.50). Asthma symptom score was associated with low ChE (OR = 1.93; CI: 1.09-3.44). Participants with high FeNO (>50 ppb) also had an elevated odds of having low ChE (OR = 4.8; CI: 0.80-28.00).

Conclusion: Pesticide exposure among women farm workers is associated with increased risk of ocular nasal symptoms and an elevated asthma symptom score.

Keywords: allergy; asthma; cholinesterase; farm women; pesticides.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / chemically induced*
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Pesticides / adverse effects*
  • Prevalence
  • Rural Population
  • South Africa / epidemiology


  • Pesticides