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Paraquat application and respiratory health effects among South Korean farmers
  1. Eun Shil Cha1,
  2. Yun Keun Lee2,
  3. Eun Kyeong Moon1,
  4. Yong Bae Kim3,
  5. Yong-Jin Lee3,
  6. Woo Chul Jeong4,
  7. Eun Young Cho4,
  8. Ik Jin Lee4,
  9. Jongil Hur4,
  10. Mina Ha5,
  11. Won Jin Lee1
  1. 1Department of Preventive Medicine, College of Medicine, Korea University, Seoul, South Korea
  2. 2Wonjin Institute for Occupational and Environmental Health, Seoul, South Korea
  3. 3Department of Preventive Medicine, College of Medicine, Soonchunhyang University, Cheonan, South Korea
  4. 4Environmental Health Center, Taean Public Health and Medical Center, Taean gun, South Korea
  5. 5Department of Preventive Medicine, Dankook University, Cheonan, South Korea
  1. Correspondence to Dr Won Jin Lee, Department of Preventive Medicine, College of Medicine, Korea University, Seoul 136-705, South Korea; leewj{at}


Objectives Paraquat is commonly used worldwide as major herbicide. The objective of this study was to investigate the association among farmers between occupational paraquat exposure and respiratory health effects.

Methods A cross-sectional survey of health effects related to an oil spill was conducted in South Korea from 2008 to 2009. For this analysis, a total of 2882 full-time farmers were selected from the overall sample. Data collection included an interviewer-administered questionnaire and spirometry testing. Logistic regression analysis and linear regression analysis were performed to evaluate the relationship between paraquat exposure and respiratory health outcomes after adjustment for potential confounders.

Results The risks of self-reported physician-diagnosed asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and allergic rhinitis were non-significantly increased among paraquat-applying farmers compared with non-paraquat-applying farmers. Although the results of a pulmonary function test fell within normal limits, a decline in forced vital capacity and forced expiratory volume in one second was apparent among paraquat-applying farmers compared with non-paraquat-applying farmers. Forced vital capacity (β=−5.20, p<0.001) and forced expiratory volume in one second (β=−1.89, p=0.010) significantly decreased with each unit increase in years of paraquat application. Paraquat-applying farmers showed a significant exposure–response relationship between restrictive ventilatory defects and paraquat application years (p trend=0.015) or lifetime days of application (p trend=0.007).

Conclusions Our findings suggest a possible association between paraquat application and adverse respiratory health effects among farmers.

  • Agricultural workers
  • occupational exposure
  • paraquat
  • pulmonary function test
  • restrictive lung disease
  • ergonomics
  • hygiene/occupational hygiene
  • back disorders
  • epidemiology
  • public health
  • cancer
  • occupational health practice
  • preventive medicine

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  • Funding This work was carried out with the support of the Cooperative Research Program for Agriculture Science and Technology Development (Project No. PJ007455), Rural Development Administration and Ministry of Environment, Republic of Korea.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the institutional review board of Dankook University Hospital.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.