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Occupation disease due to pesticides and their impact and complications

Occupation disease is defined as a condition or a disorder like post-traumatic stress, cancer, etc. that occurs due to the work environment as well as the activities related to an individual’s work. This issue is linked to a particular occupation, and in this paper, the occupational diseases associated with exposure to pesticides will be discussed. Pesticides are compounds that are widely used in forestry, the food industry, agriculture, and fishing (1). Studies and epidemiological surveys showed that pesticides can exert negative effects on both their targets as well as the rest of the environment (2). Thus, along with the pests, fungi, and herbs, pesticides interact with the environment and cause adverse effects on every living thing, including humans and workers who are involved in the transportation, production, preparation, as well as application of pesticides. Studies have further demonstrated the link between being occupationally exposed to pesticides and developing a range of pathologies like cancer (2).

In this paper, a discussion will be made about occupational diseases occurring due to pesticides and their effects on humans. The paper also established links between occupational pesticide exposure and the developing a range of pathologies by comparing the prevalence of occupational diseases in two Asian countries, China and Thailand. strategies will be discussed for overcoming this situation. The paper focuses on occupational disease due to pesticides and strategies to reduce its impact on the lives of the workers.

Pesticides are defined as a complex mixture of substances that are used for killing, repelling, or eliminating insects, rodents, weeds, fungi, etc. Pesticides are widely used throughout the world, and various people are exposed to it both occupationally as well as environmentally. Studies have shown that pesticides can cause hazardous genetic effects, yet they are still being used in the agricultural industry. Although there are numerous benefits of pesticides, their use leads to an increase in the yield of the crops as well as a decrease in postharvest losses. Extensive use of pesticides leads to the accumulation of pesticides in soil, food residue, etc. (2). It shows bio-magnification through their entry into the food chain because of the high exposure level and slow pace of biodegradation. Hence, it is a threat to the economy and public health (3).

In many developing Asian countries, occupational pesticide exposure takes place during the mixing of pesticides, loading, preparation, and application of pesticides. Pesticide exposure mostly occurs during loading as well as mixing. Workers in agriculture use pesticides at high doses instead of the recommended dose by the manufacturer (4). Furthermore, the workers sprinkle pesticides with their bare hands to reduce the overhead cost. However, these practices of the workers are mainly due to unawareness related to the adverse impact of pesticides. Occupational diseases due to pesticides occur mostly in production workers, loaders, sprayers, mixers, formulators, and agricultural farm workers, and hence they are at a high risk of developing diseases like cancers, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Alzheimer's, respiratory diseases, Parkinson's, asthma, diabetes, bronchitis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, infertility, birth defects, obesity, organ diseases, etc. Pesticides induce oxidative damage to the DNA, breakage of the single or double strand of the DNA as well as DNA adducts (5). Long-term exposure to pesticides can negatively affect their immune system, nervous system, respiratory system, reproductive system, as well as cardiovascular system (3).

Establish the causal relationship between the occupational disease and the Pesticides

Pesticides that workers are exposed to vary according to the class of organisms that must be controlled; examples include rodenticide, weedicide, fungicide, and herbicide. Organochlorines and organophosphates are a few pesticides that are commonly used in agriculture. Profenfos (O-4-Bromo-2-chlorophenyl-O-ethyl S-propyl phosphorothioate), Round up (Isopropylamine salt of N-(phosphonomethyl) glycine), and dichlorovos (2,2-Dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate) are commonly used organophosphates in developing countries such as India (5).

Pesticide exposure leads to the development of various diseases like cancers, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Alzheimer's, respiratory diseases like Parkinson's, asthma, autism, diabetes, bronchitis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, infertility, birth defects, obesity, organ diseases, etc. (5). As the CNS of insects is similar to mammals, pesticides attack the nervous system of humans as a mechanism of toxicity, leading to various neurological diseases. Diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer's disease (AD), and Parkinson's disease (PD), are most linked with the pesticide’s neurotoxic effects. Studies have shown that pesticides (6) inhibit the action of the enzyme or their production through modification in the ion channels. One excellent example is organophosphates (OPs), which cause ion channel dysfunction and thus disrupt acetylcholine passage. OPs inhibit the hydrolysis of acetyl-cholinesterase (ACHE), the enzyme that helps in controlling neurotransmitters, and hence affects the nervous system. ACHE and OPs form a covalent bond through serine hydroxyl group phosphorylation that is present in ACHE, leading to ACHE inactivation as well as acetylcholine accumulation in the nervous system (5).

Acetylcholine accumulation affects nervous system receptors via overstimulation of nicotinic and muscarinic receptors, resulting in hypertension, hypotension, tachycardia, variation in heart rate, sinus bradycardia, and cyanosis, as well as a high level of serum creatinine and lactate dehydrogenase (5).

A study conducted in Ontario involved studying the link between exposure to pesticides and spontaneous abortion in the agricultural industry. There was a moderate risk of early abortion after being exposed to phenoxyacetic acid herbicides and triazines. Pesticide exposure also causes pregnancy complications and affects the quality of sperm, sex hormone, concentration, and mobility of the sperm, resulting in infertility. A comparative study conducted by Miranda-Contreras et al. in Venezuela included the examination of the quality of sperm in farmers who were exposed to pesticides, and the results showed variations in the semen characteristics like reduction in the concentration of sperm, reduced alterations in the sperm membrane, and motility (7).

Pyrethroids can lead to sperm aneuploidy, and organophosphates can affect the quality of the semen and sex hormones, increasing the level of thyroid-stimulating hormone as well as luteinizing hormone. A recent study was conducted with randomly selected couples where the men were employed on a farm, and the results indicated a prevalence of spontaneous abortion, primary infertility, and frequent stillbirths in couples working on farms (6). Pesticides have also been shown to alter the immune system, resulting in the development of chronic inflammation as well as increased inflammatory chemokines and cytokines production, both of which have been linked to cancer development (6). Various types of pesticides, like organochlorines and organophosphates, are associated with the development of Diabetes Mellitus (6).

Two Asian countries and statistics

The two countries where occupational diseases like cancers, Alzheimer's, respiratory diseases, Parkinson's, asthma, autism, diabetes, bronchitis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, infertility, birth defects, obesity, organ diseases, etc. are common due to the exposure of pesticides among the workers are Thailand and China (8).

In thirty years, agriculture has been the largest economic sector in China, despite the rapid urbanization and industrialization. However, this Asian country uses pesticides in an unregulated manner, leading to pesticide poisoning (9). According to the data obtained from the Occupational Disease Surveillance and Reporting Systems in Zhejiang province for the years 2006 to 2010, 20 097 pesticide poisoning cases, resulting in 1413 deaths, were recorded. Occupation exposure to pesticides was common in men (10). Out of 20 997 pesticide poisoning cases, 4048 were due to occupational exposure, with 27 deaths. The number of cases increased from 20–24 years to 55–59 years, which is lower than for people older than 75 years. Pesticide poisoning kills over 150 000 people each year (9, 11).

In Thailand, 30% of the workforce is employed in agriculture, which thus contributes to the country’s gross domestic product. The use and import of pesticides have increased in Thailand, leading to serious complications associated with health. Occupational and environmental diseases In Thailand, are reported to the Health Data Center). Between the years 2013 and 2016, it was reported that among agriculturists, the highest prevalence was injuries at 0.6%, followed by MSDs at 0.3%, and pesticide toxicity at 0.1%. (12)

In China, there are strict laws that govern the health of workers by providing a guideline on the prevention as well as control of occupational diseases. According to article 19 of the law, employers need to set up an organization for controlling occupational health that is managed by part-time or full-time health professionals to prevent and control the spread of occupational diseases. This article further emphasizes the establishment and improvement of the control system as well as setting rules for preventing the uncontrolled use of pesticides (8). This article further emphasizes the importance of keeping a file to monitor as well as protect the health of the workers and improve their practices (9). Setting up as well as improving the system for assessing the factors that otherwise contribute to occupation diseases is an effective measure for controlling this issue. The Further Labor Law has been in effect since January 1995, and it includes a labor supervision system for regulating and inspecting labor contracts. the work safety administrative department is there to fulfill their duties and responsibilities like establishing work safety standards, reporting occupational hazards, the safety of lives, regulations on the operation, storage, production, transportation, as well as the use of dangerous chemicals and proper handling of harmful substances (10). Furthermore, this department helps in educating the workers about the impact of pesticides as well as the complications associated with the overuse of pesticides that can help in better controlling the situations (10).

In Thailand, the legal body of pesticide management is HAS (Hazard Substance Act). This act helps in regulating the production, import, marketing, and possession of chemicals that are being used in Thailand and thus aims at preventing the exposure of workers to hazardous substances like pesticides. Evaluation of the quality of the pesticides is the responsibility of the OAR of the DOA (11). They have recognized the uncontrolled use of pesticides and an attempt has been made by them to decrease their usage through the launch of mitigation campaigns like organic farming, good agricultural practice (GAP), integrated pesticide management (IPM), and educating the public about the benefits of bio-pesticides. As the farmers in Thailand still believe that the application of pesticides is necessary, they have continued the use of pesticides that exceed the threshold level (11). This necessitates the organization of a successful campaign to educate the farmers and help them change their attitude towards pesticides. Furthermore, the HSA has given authority to the HSC to limit the import, production, and usage of pesticides belonging to the extremely (class Ia) or highly toxic (class Ib) category or those that are potential carcinogens, like organochlorine pesticides (OCs). Currently, 98 pesticides have been prohibited in Thailand, making it the largest Asian country to ban 98 pesticides (12).

Integrated pest management is one of the most effective ways to eradicate occupational diseases that occur due to frequent exposure to pesticides. This approach was introduced in 1967 by R.F. Smith and R. van den Bosch in the U.S. China and Thailand are using this method of preventing and managing pests that helps in increasing the productivity of crops while reducing the risk of disease that could otherwise occur because of the application of chemical pesticides (13). Another effective strategy is the use of bio-fertilizers that were introduced in the year 1998 by Dr. Goenadi with the Indonesian patent office. Dr. Goenadi introduced the process of producing EMAS biofertilizer that is widely used across several countries (14) Both the Asian countries involve the use of green management products like transgenic crops, physical control methods, plant resistance, biological pesticides, natural enemies, agronomy-based control, etc. to reduce the occurrence of occupational diseases. To improve the overall health of their workers, both countries are making equal efforts in terms of establishing modern S&T innovative systems, establishing warning information methods, modernizing the IAS management system, and training modern framers.

Conclusion

Thus, various occupational diseases like cancers, Alzheimer's, respiratory diseases like Parkinson's, asthma, autism, diabetes, bronchitis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, infertility, birth defects, obesity, organ diseases, etc. are common due to the exposure of pesticides among the workers in Thailand and China. Studies and epidemiological surveys indicated that pesticides can exert negative impact on both their targets as well as the rest of the environment. Thus, it is important to regulate the use of pesticides and educate the workers regarding the protective ways of handling these hazardous substances to minimize the risk of developing various issues. Certain regulatory bodies and laws that are present in China and Thailand can help in regulating pesticide usage and help the workers to adopt health practices like the use of bio-pesticides. Educating and creating awareness regarding the negative impact of being exposed to pesticides is vital in this context. Guidance, support, and education, along with the ways of handling pesticides properly and the use of better alternatives like integrated pest management, bio-fertilizer, etc., can help in reducing the occurrence of pesticide-exposed occupational diseases.

References

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  2. Ohlander J, Fuhrimann S, Basinas I, Cherrie JW, Galea KS, Povey AC, Van Tongeren M, Harding AH, Jones K, Vermeulen R, Kromhout H. Systematic review of methods used to assess exposure to pesticides in occupational epidemiology studies, 1993–2017. Occupational and environmental medicine. 2020 Jun 1;77(6):357-67.
  3. Gunnarsson LG, Bodin L. Occupational exposures and neurodegenerative diseases—a systematic literature review and meta-analyses. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2019 Jan;16(3):337.
  4. Amoatey P, Al-Mayahi A, Omidvarborna H, Baawain MS, Sulaiman H. Occupational exposure to pesticides and associated health effects among greenhouse farm workers. Environmental Science and Pollution Research. 2020 Jun;27(18):22251-70.
  5. Kaur K, Kaur R. Occupational pesticide exposure, impaired DNA repair, and diseases. Indian journal of occupational and environmental medicine. 2018 May;22(2):74.

(6) Gangemi S, Miozzi E, Teodoro M, Briguglio G, De Luca A, Alibrando C, Polito I, Libra M. Occupational exposure to pesticides as a possible risk factor for the development of chronic diseases in humans. Molecular medicine reports. 2016 Nov 1;14(5):4475-88.

  1. Miranda-Contreras L, Cruz I, Osuna JA, Gomez-Perez R, Berrueta L, Salmen S, Colmenares M, Barreto S, Balza A, Morales Y, Zavala L. Effects of occupational exposure to pesticides on semen quality of workers in an agricultural community of Merida state, Venezuela. Investigacion clinica. 2015 Jun 1;56(2):123-36.
  2. Provisions CI. LAW OF THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA ON PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF OCCUPATIONAL DISEASES.
  3. Wang D, Liu A, Zhang S, Yu Y, Hu W, Sun X. History of the Development of the Reporting System of Occupational Diseases and Occupational Disease List in China. China CDC Weekly. 2020 May 1;2(18):314.
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  6. Chaiklieng S, Poochada W, Suggaravetsiri P. Work-related diseases among agriculturists in Thailand: A systematic review. Songklanakarin Journal of Science & Technology. 2021 May 1;43(3).
  7. Hagstrum DW, Flinn PW. Integrated pest management. InIntegrated management of insects in stored products 2018 Dec 19 (pp. 399-407). CRC Press.
  8. Atieno M, Herrmann L, Nguyen HT, Phan HT, Nguyen NK, Srean P, Than MM, Zhiyong R, Tittabutr P, Shutsrirung A, Bräu L. Assessment of biofertilizer use for sustainable agriculture in the Great Mekong Region. Journal of environmental management. 2020 Dec 1;275:111300.
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