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Study IDs nearly 30 pesticides that make farmers wheeze

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Photo: North Carolina State University

Raleigh, NC – More than two dozen pesticides – including the most commonly used herbicide – are associated with respiratory wheeze among male farmers, according to a recent study from North Carolina State University.

Wheezing indicates airway problems and can lead to more serious health issues. For the study, researchers defined allergic wheeze as cases in which farmers reported wheezing along with doctor-diagnosed hay fever, and non-allergic wheeze as cases in which wheezing with no hay fever was reported.

Researchers analyzed the data of 22,154 male farmers from the Agricultural Health Study from 2005 to 2010. The farmers had listed the pesticides they used during the previous year, along with specific respiratory issues they had experienced.

Among the 78 pesticides listed were 45 herbicides and plant growth regulators and 25 insecticides. Twenty-nine pesticides were associated with at least one type of wheeze, and 11 were associated with both types. Glyphosate, the world’s most popular herbicide, was one of the pesticides associated with allergic and non-allergic wheeze.

“This is the most comprehensive list of pesticides in relation to wheeze that has been evaluated to date,” North Carolina State Epidemiologist Jane Hoppin said in a press release. “Fifty-one of the pesticides we tested in this study had never been analyzed in terms of their effects on respiratory outcomes. … We believe it’s important information that will help people make decisions about pesticides.”

The study was published online July 8 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

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