Physiological effects of work stress and pesticide exposure in tree planting by British Columbia silviculture workers

Ergonomics. 1993 Aug;36(8):951-61. doi: 10.1080/00140139308967959.


Tree planters in British Columbia have reported symptoms that are congruent with musculoskeletal stress and organophosphate or carbamate pesticide intoxication. The purpose of this research was to determine the existence of any physiological or biochemical correlate supporting the existence of these potential hazards in tree planting. Worker's health complaints were assessed from regularly distributed questionnaires. Blood samples were obtained from 14 male and three female Canadian subjects before and after tree planting work on 10 occasions throughout a tree planting season. The strenuous physical challenge of tree planting was confirmed by a significant elevation of serum enzyme activity (ESEA) at the beginning of the season, which did not return to a normal level during the remainder of the season. Significant (p < or = 0.05) inhibition of erythrocyte acetylcholinesterase activity (AChE) postwork was observed in 15.9% of individuals, and a significant group mean prework-postwork difference of AChE or plasma pseudocholinesterase (PChE) was observed on two days of testing, indicating a potential toxicological hazard from pesticide absorption. No correlation was found between the degree of ESEA or cholinesterase inhibition and the number of health complaints.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase / blood*
  • Acetylcholinesterase / drug effects
  • Adult
  • British Columbia
  • Creatine Kinase / blood*
  • Female
  • Forestry*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occupational Diseases / blood
  • Occupational Diseases / enzymology*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Pesticides / adverse effects
  • Stress, Physiological / blood
  • Stress, Physiological / complications*


  • Pesticides
  • Creatine Kinase
  • Acetylcholinesterase