Synthetic Pesticides and Health in Vulnerable Populations: Agricultural Workers

Curr Environ Health Rep. 2020 Mar;7(1):13-29. doi: 10.1007/s40572-020-00266-5.


Purpose of review: This review aims to summarize epidemiological literature published between May 15, 2018, and May 14, 2019, that examines the relationship between exposure to synthetic pesticides and health of agricultural workers.

Recent findings: Current research suggests that exposure to synthetic pesticides may be associated with adverse health outcomes. Agricultural workers represent a potentially vulnerable population, due to a combination of unique social and cultural risk factors as well as exposure to hazards inherent in agricultural work. Pesticide exposure among agricultural workers has been linked to certain cancers, DNA damage, oxidative stress, neurological disorders, and respiratory, metabolic, and thyroid effects. This review describes literature suggesting that agricultural workers exposed to synthetic pesticides are at an increased risk of certain cancers and neurological disorders. Recent research on respiratory effects is sparse, and more research is warranted regarding DNA damage, oxidative stress, metabolic outcomes, and thyroid effects.

Keywords: Agricultural workers; Cancer; DNA damage; Farmworkers; Pesticide exposure; Synthetic pesticides.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / statistics & numerical data*
  • DNA Damage
  • Farmers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced
  • Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Risk Factors
  • Vulnerable Populations / statistics & numerical data*


  • Pesticides