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Daily News Archive
From June 3, 2003

Australian Study Shows Increased Mortality In Workers Exposed to Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides. June 3, 2003) An Australian study published in the May 2003 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives (Vol. 111, No. 5) finds increased mortality in workers who applied pesticides as part of their job. The study, "Health Impacts of Pesticide Exposure in a Cohort of Outdoor Workers," compares the mortality of 1,999 outdoor workers who applied insecticides to livestock as part of a tick control program from 1935-1996 with that of 1,984 outdoor workers not occupationally exposed to insecticides, and with the Australian population.

Health effects of the study subjects were tracked through Australia's universal health care system, with which each citizen is required to register. Surviving subjects also completed a morbidity questionnaire. Questions focused on factors that might potentially confound the broader study, such as smoking or alcohol consumption, pesticide exposure history, a validated neuropsychologic score, and a range of nonfatal outcomes that may potentially be related to pesticide exposure.

According to the Board of Tick Control records, arsenic was used to control ticks from 1935-1955; DDT was used from 1955-1962; and a variety of "modern chemicals," including coumaphos, carbophenothion, carbaryl, chlorpyrifos, bromophos ethyl, dioxothion, ethion, chlordimeform, cymyazole, chlormethiuron, amitraz, promacyl, cypermethrin, chlorfenvinphos and flumethrin were used from 1962 until the present.

Compared with the general Australian population, mortality over the total study period is increased for asthma, diabetes and pancreatic cancer. Compared with the control population, mortality is increased for leukemia. There is also an increase in self-reported chronic illness and asthma, and lower neuropsychologic functioning scores among surviving exposed subjects when compared with controls. The researchers say that these recent findings lend weight to other studies suggesting an association between adverse health effects and exposure to pesticides.

To read the report online, visit http://ehpnet1.niehs.nih.gov/docs/2003/5885/abstract.pdf.