When it comes to impact environmental chemicals such as pesticides have on health, there is generally two schools of thought. One of these is that there’s no evidence of harm, and there is therefore nothing to be concerned about. Others, though, are more circumspect bearing in mind the very alien-to-nature nature of these compounds and their capacity to have potent biological effect in the body. As a result, some end up judging that these substances may possibly have an adverse effect on health.
In a recent study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, scientists from the National Institutes of Health in the USA assessed the relationship between pesticide exposure and risk of diabetes . The individuals assessed in this study comprised some 33,000 individuals who worked in agriculture, and whose job it was (at least in part) to apply pesticides.
Exposure to some 50 pesticides and risk of diabetes was assessed. The researchers found that exposure to several specific pesticides was linked with increased risk of diabetes.
The researchers specifically looked at the risk associated with lifetime exposure to each chemical of more than 100 days. This level of exposure to the pesticides chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and heptachlor was associated with a 24, 59, and 94 per cent increased risk of diabetes respectively. Other pesticides also seemed to have a significant link with diabetes.
This sort of study cannot be used to ‘prove’ that pesticides can cause diabetes. However, the authors of this study do refer to other existing work in animals and humans which supports a link. The authors of the study also conclude that Long-term exposure from handling certain pesticides, in particular, organochlorine and organophosphate insecticides, may be associated with increased risk of diabetes.�
1. Montgomery MP, et al. Incident Diabetes and Pesticide Exposure among Licensed Pesticide Applicators: Agricultural Health Study, 1993″2003. American Journal of Epidemiology 2008 167(10):1235-1246