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Exposure to high levels of pesticides puts men at increased risk of heart disease, stroke: study

Agriculture worker
Photo: hedgehog94/iStockphoto

Honolulu — Men who are exposed to high levels of pesticides at work face a 45% higher risk of heart disease and stroke, results of a recent study from the University of Hawaii show.

Researchers studied 7,557 Japanese American men living in Oahu, HI, who participated in the Kuakini Honolulu Heart Program – a long-term study that ran from the mid-1960s to 1999. The researchers used OSHA information for the men’s jobs to estimate pesticide exposure.

Findings show that the highest risk was during the first 10 years of exposure, with the effects tapering off thereafter.

The link between high pesticide exposure and heart disease and stroke risk was no longer statistically significant after 34 years. However, “This was probably because other factors tied to aging became more important, masking the possible relation of pesticides and cardiovascular disease later in life,” study co-author Beatriz Rodriguez, a geriatric medicine professor at UH, said in a Sept. 25 press release.

The researchers point out that the results might not apply to women and other races, although a 2015 study of middle-aged workers in Taiwan showed similar outcomes.


“One class of pesticides may give women heart attacks but not men,” Zara Berg, lead study author and adjunct science professor at Fort Peck Community College in Poplar, MT, said in the release. “Other pesticides may give men heart disease but not women. Hormones may also play a role in the impact of pesticide exposure and the development of cardiovascular disease.”

The researchers say their results show the importance of proper personal protective equipment use by workers who are exposed to pesticides.

The study was published online Sept. 25 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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