Pesticides may not raise heart risks
Oct. 22, 2009
Good news for men who farm U.S. fields. Regular exposure to pesticides used commonly on the farm does not appear to increase the risk of heart attack.
As part of the Agricultural Health Study, between 1993 and 1997, researchers asked more than 54,000 male farmers what pesticides they used regularly, how much time they spent using tractors and other farm equipment, and whether they raised poultry or other livestock.
Dr. Jane A. Hoppin, of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and colleagues surveyed roughly 32,000 of these men 5 years later and discovered 839 non-fatal heart attacks.
They also followed the entire study population for nearly 12 years on average and found that a total of 476 farmers died from heart attack.
In analyses adjusted for factors that might increase heart attack risk, such as older age, smoking and being overweight, the researchers found some suggestion of an increased risk of heart attack with exposure to six specific pesticides, although the link was not statistically significant.
These pesticides were the organochlorines aldrin and DDT, the herbicide 2,4,5-T, the fumigant ethylene dibromide, and the fungicides maneb and ziram.
By contrast, five other pesticides - carbaryl, terbufos, imazethapyr, pendimethalin, and petroleum oil - seemed to be associated with a somewhat reduced risk of death from heart attack.
However, none of the 49 pesticides were statistically associated with heart attack, nor did the investigators note similar risk due to other farm-related "exposures."
In a report in the American Journal of Epidemiology, Hoppin and colleagues point out that farmers commonly have heart attack rates lower than those of the general population.
Hoppin and colleagues say further investigations are needed to confirm their findings and to assess short- and long-term heart-related risks from exposure to pesticides.
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