Pesticide Exposure, Agricultural Work Associated with Chronic Lung Disease

March 16, 2021 | Occupational and environmental exposure to pesticides and other contaminants in the environment increase the risk of developing a lung condition known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), according to a meta-analysis published in Nature Scientific Reports. IPF is a chronic, degenerative disease with no certain cause or cure. It is estimated to affect roughly 13 women and 20 men in 100,000 adults worldwide annually, with onset averaging age 66. With the scientific literature continuously finding new connections between pesticide use and diseases that are all too common in today’s world, advocates say it is critical for residents and officials at all levels to embrace safer, alternative organic methods of addressing weed and pest issues. The results indicate cause for significant concern for the lung health of those who are working in the agricultural industry and/or applied toxic pesticides throughout their lives. A considerable body of literature links pesticide use to harmful effects on lung health. Previous reports have found that 78 agricultural pesticides are directly linked to wheezing—potentially the first step toward chronic disease. A 2017 study found pesticide exposure over one’s life to be associated with another degenerative lung disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). “[I]t is thought that long-term exposure to pesticides increases mucus secretion and muscle contraction in the lungs, causing breathlessness, cough and wheeze,” the lead researcher of that study told Reuters. A study published in July 2020 found pesticide use increased a person’s risk of lung cancer. A comprehensive literature review published in October 2020, focused on lung pathologies in general, found strong correlations between pesticide exposure and various respiratory diseases. [Park, Yeonkyung et al. Occupational and environmental risk factors of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: a systematic review and meta-analyses. Nature Scientific Reports. 11:4318, 2021.]