Biosci. Biotech. Res. Comm. 8(2): 208-212 (2015)

Adverse health effects of pesticide exposure in workers of a pesticide manufacturing factory

Sharique A Ali, Shoeb A. Khan1, Ishrat Naaz and Ayesha S. Ali *

1Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital and Research Centre, Bhopal 462001 India

Post Graduate Department of Biotechnology and Zoology, Sai•a Science College, Bhopal-462001, India *Correspondence to : Dr. Ayesha S. Ali, Professor and Principal Investigator UGC New Delhi Project, Department of Zoology and Biotechnology, Sai•a Science College, Bhopal-462001, India


A questionnaire based survey of workers was conducted from a pesticide formulating factory situated in Bhopal and the data tabulated from it re!ect the severity of clinical manifestations which the workers have to suffer. Diseases such as eye problems, respiratory problems, digestive and abdominal complications and neuromuscular symptoms were found to be increased with the pesticide exposure. The present investigation highlights the reality of the situa- tion and severity of the problems in factories in developing countries and also emphasizes on the need of more such studies to be conducted. The persistent occurrence of health and disease implications as observed in the presently evaluated pesticide exposed factory workers, their working conditions, precautions and the health risks need to be given considerable attention both by biomedical scientists and the government authorities.



The modernization and innovation in industries and rapid increase in chemicals and hazardous pollutants in recent years has not only resulted in unsafe working conditions but has created problems of occupational health hazards (Amer et al. 2002; Cooper et al. 2004; Cocco et al. 2005 Emam et al., 2012, Colmenares et al., 2013).

Pesticides came into existence to combat diseases and to increase food production and their value in preserving


Received 2nd September, 2015

Accepted after revision 14th November, 2015 BBRC Print ISSN: 0974-6455

Online ISSN: 2321-4007 NAAS Journal Score : 3.48

©A Society of Science and Nature Publication, 2015. All rights reserved.

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valuable crops from the attack of pests and in destroy- ing vectors of communicable diseases is unquestionable. Enhanced farm productivity and inexpensive control of vector born diseases were the main bene"ts brought by pesticides. Several previous studies have shown that the situation of pesticidal effects on all living beings, including humans and their environment and the vari- ous food chains are in a serious threat of contamination. These studies make it clear that the global use of pesti- cides is increasing at a tremendous pace and so are the


biological effects assuming giant proportions, (Emam et al. 2012 Colmnares et al., 2013 Choudhary et al 2014).

In view of the importance of the toxicological effects of pesticides on almost every organism and its sur- roundings, importance has to be given on their effects on higher animals including man.The astronomical increase of pesticide use and the magni"cation of health hazards in man haveattracted the attention of biochem- ists and toxicologists to investigate in detail the physi- ological and biochemical manifestation of pesticides. We have enormous data in literature concerning the effects of pesticides on plants, animals and laboratory animals.

The studies were focused because of the decline in population of aquatic animals (Tilak et al. 2004; Gul 2005; Besser et al. 2005), birds (Perry 1990), and useful insects due to the intense application of pesticides. Since human beings are at the highest end of the food chain they also accumulate insecticides in various tissues as reported earlier. The maximum risk of pesticides is to those who manufacture, formulate and handle them. The incidence of occupational exposure to human beings engaged in pesticide factories is more pronounced in developing and poor countries where safety measures and standards are followed only on papers, (Jeyaratnam et al. 1987; Forget 1991 Ali et al., 1995 Miranda-Con- treras et al., 2013).

Interestingly, in literature it becomes evident that though majority of severe cases of occupational haz- ards by pesticides occurred in tropical under-developed countries including India, Pakistan, Srilanka and Bangla- desh, the majority of reports are of European and highly developed countries which are not only climatically less risky but where safety standards, management policies are strictly adhered to. Ironically very few studies have been conducted involving pesticides exposure and its physiological and biochemical manifestations leading to several abnormalities in the sub-continent.Although developing countries account for only about 25% of pesticide consumption globally, their use is growing rapidly. In such countries no surveys are conducted and whatever evaluation is done provides concocted "gures.

The present investigation highlights the reality of the situation and severity of the problems in this and other such factories and also emphasizes on the need of such studies to be conducted. In view of the severity of the problem and particularly the lacunae in informa- tion with regard to the signs and symptoms on general health of pesticide exposed factory workers, the present study was undertaken and the "ndings will provide an opportunity to raise voice against such environmental mismanagement, which in the past have even lead to human destruction in catastrophic manner. People have not forgotten the Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1984, the big- gest of the chemical disasters in history.

Sharique A. Ali et al.


The present study was conducted in one of the major pesticide formulating and manufacturing factories of Bhopal, India where the actual working conditions were considerably standard and the workers did not use masks, gloves, gumboots or any protective apparel as required. It was observed that they worked in stuffy rooms without proper ventilation and only tied a cotton cloth around their mouth, working on an average for 10 to 12 hours in hot and humid conditions, on a daily wage basis. The temperature of their working place ranged from 32-40 ˚C. The products manufactured by the factory were Benzene HexaChloride (BHC),Malathion, Parathion and Carbaryl. The workers handled the pesticides by way to manual mixing and packing them in plastic bags and also stacking the pesticide bags for loading and reload- ing. Almost all the workers were exposed to the pesti- cides through skin as well as by inhalation. After their work, very few pesticides factory workers (10-15%) used to take shower and change their clothes, whereas others used to change their clothes after 3-4 days. Information regarding the concentration of pesticides in air or on skin could not be obtained.

A total number of 41 human subjects were studied for a period of two years with several obstacles for fear of being threatened or the workers being "red from their jobs. The subjects were studied after three, six and nine to twelve months of pesticide exposure. A group com- prising eleven workers who left their job due to severity of their ailment was also studied as withdrawal group. All the workers were males and ranged between 25 to 40 years of age and belonged to low income group. The subjects in each group were compared with external group of control subjects of the same age, socio-eco- nomic status having no previous history of occupational contact with pesticides. A special questionnaire was pre- pared following the format of ITRC Lucknow (India) and used for recording the information of the subjects such as symptoms and signs involving ophthalmological, res- piratory, abdominal, general weakness and neuromus- cular problems.


On the basis of information collected from pesticide fac- tory workers in the questionnaire, the results have been tabulated (Table 1).

The data show that the major type of signs and symptoms involving ophthalmological, respiratory, abdominal, general weakness and neuromuscular were quite frequently observed in three, six and nine to twelve month of pesticide exposed workers. The extent of manifestations has been divided into severe, moder-


Table 1: Showing sign and symptoms in occupationally exposed pesticide factory workers

.al et Ali .A Sharique

ate and mild. Six workers out of 41 complained moder- ate blinking/watering of eyes; while "fteen complained of mild type;whereas twenty complained mild to severe pain and burning in their eyes. Mild in!ammation in the eyes was observed in eighteen cases while "ve subjects complained of moderate type of ocular in!ammation. Three subjects also reported moderate blurring of vision while twelve complained mild temporary blurred vision, which could be treated by washing of eyes with water, near normal conditions returned after a layoff of three to four days.

With regard to abdominal and respiratory problems in three months exposed group, two workers reported moderate dif"culty in breathing while twelve reported mild and heavy dif"culty in breathing. Moderate pal- pitation was also observed in four cases while it was mild in others. Twelve out of forty one subjects com- plained of moderate loss of appetite while twenty-six complained of mild type. Nausea/vomiting was usually observed in thirty four subjects out of which fourteen had it of mild type and rest of moderate type. Mild fever was also observed in twenty subjects while moderate in ten. Abdominal pain coupled with tightness of moderate nature was observed in four subjects while that of mild type was seen in thirteen. As regard to bronchopha- ryngeal secretion, seven were of moderate and twenty- four as mild with usual respiratory disturbances such as wheezing, coughing and occasional pain in chest.

It was observed that out of the forty one exposed factory workers in the three months exposure group, majority of the symptoms were of mild nature while the six month exposure group showed moderate signs and symptoms of abdominal discomfort, respiratory compli- cation and neuromuscular problems. All these problems were found to be very common and of severe nature in the 9-12 months exposure group. Eleven out of 41 peo- ple who had left their job (and designated as withdrawal group) were asked questions after 3-4 months of their withdrawal. From their responses it could be concluded that most of the symptoms disappeared during their 3 months period of rest or without any exposure to pes- ticides as most of the workers often chose to carry on something else during this period for their earning.

During the last many decades the use of chemicals has increased rapidly since it has provided the agricul- turists and hygienists a most desirable and useful tool to protect lives as well as it has helped in avoiding destruc- tion of man’s food crops. Coupled with this, it has also proved to be a curse on the living creatures exposed directly or indirectly to pesticides including human beings. The "ndings presented here based on question- naire of the occupationally exposed pesticide factory workers provide an insight into the signs and symptoms of ill effects of pesticideexposure on human beings.

Sharique A. Ali et al.

In accordance with the study conducted by Rastogi et al. (1989), we have reported that occupational expo- sure to pesticides has a direct link to the respiratory ail- ment/disorders as found presently in the exposed work- ers. In this regard the work of Kesavachandran et al. (2006) is worth mentioning, as they havereported that various health problems like respiratory, gastrointesti- nal, ocular and dermal areassociated with exposure of pesticides among workers engaged in pesticide spraying in mangoplantations without any safety considerations. Earlier, Hayes et al. (1971) and Sand"er et al. (1972) in extensive studies on the effects of wide spectrum of pesticides on several factory workers reported that on a whole, these subjects had no greater mortality than the control population; however, there were subtle bio- chemical disturbances of undetermined signi"cances in their studies. Blood glucose along with other biochemi- cal factors was not in!uenced by pesticide exposure. There were no differences in blood and urine tests of exposed and control workers. These pesticides may impose sub clinical stress on the human body though no overt diseases could be uncovered. In another exten- sive study conducted by Namba (1972), it was observed that hyperglycemia and glycosuria occurred in patients with severe parathion poisoning. Similarly Morgan et al. (1978) reported high levels of blood glucose in workers following pesticide exposure.

In 1980, Bhatnagar et al. provided important infor- mation regarding the effects of pesticidal stress amongst pesticide factory workers in Agra. The workers found that blood sugar was signi"cantly low in the factory workers though the workers had hypercholesterolemia, which was the result of high carbohydrate rich diet, nor- mally consumed by such workers.

The present data tabulated from the questionnaire re!ect that the severity of manifestations following pesticide exposure such as ophthalmological problems, respiratory disorders, digestive and abdominal compli- cation and neuromuscular symptoms depends on the duration of exposure of pesticides, being minimum in three months exposure group and maximum in one year group.

In agreement with the study of Misra et al. (1988) weconclude that incidence of neuromuscular manifesta- tions such as numbness in lower and upper extremities, tremor, palpitation and breathlessness are all associated with the enzyme cholinesterase which gets inhibited by the pesticide contamination. It was also observed that workers who had exposed themselves for more than six months in such factories where there are no protec- tive measures have high risk of cardiac, respiratory and neuromuscular problems such as hypertension, ineffec- tive motor control, stroke and paralysis. Similarly other problems such as diabetes and reproductive failure may

Sharique A. Ali et al.

also linked to continuous pesticide exposure as found in animal studies (Khan & Ali 1993; Recio-Vega 2008; Miranda-Contreras et al. 2013). The persistentoccurren- ceof health and disease implications as observed in the presently evaluated pesticide exposed factory workers, their working conditions, precautions and the health risks need to be given considerable attention both by biomedical scientists and the government authorities. Such factories have to be environmentally screened and continuously monitored by independent NGOs such as Green Peace, UNEPA, World Resources Institute and oth- ers as suggested by Ali et al. (1995).


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