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O2A.1 Pesticides and work-related asthma: how this relates to self-reported exposures
  1. David Fishwick1,
  2. Anne-Helen Harding1,
  3. David Fox1,
  4. Yiqun Chen1,
  5. Neil Pearce2,
  6. Gillian Frost1
  1. 1HSE GB and NHS, Sheffield, UK
  2. 2London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK


Pesticide exposure has been linked to a number of potentially adverse health outcomes, including asthma. We were interested to explore the relationship between asthma and pesticide use, particularly from the perspective of self-reported work-related asthma.

Using the existing UK PIPAH (Prospective Investigation of Pesticide Applicators’ Health) study population, we administered a respiratory questionnaire to 4814 current and past pesticide users. Participants were asked about doctor-diagnosed and self-reported asthma symptoms, and, if present, their views about the cause of work-related asthma (asthma reported to be worse at work).

Of the 2562 respondents (53% response) with a median age of 60.2 years, 97.4% were male and 34.1% ever smoked. The prevalence of ever being doctor diagnosed asthma was 11.4% (n=292), and 123 of these (42.1% of those with asthma) reported that their asthma was caused, or made worse, by their work. 17.8% reported wheeze in the last 12 months.

Grouping relevant exposures, 117 of the 123 participants reported in decreasing order of proportion, the following agents as being responsible for worsening of their asthma; organic dusts (n=73, 59%), unspecified dust (n=12, 10%), mixed exposures (n=12, 10%), any mention of chemical (n=9, 7%), physical work environment, e.g. temperature, exercise (n=7, 6%), other, e.g. irritant, fumes (n=4, 3%).

This large study of pesticide applicators has confirmed a prevalence of 11.4% for doctor-diagnosed asthma. Self-reported exposures thought by workers to aggravate their asthma were predominantly organic in nature, although a smaller proportion identified chemicals as aggravants. Workplace based preventative strategies in this sector should address all potential inhaled hazards and their associated risks to respiratory health.

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