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Farm Pesticides Linked to Adult-Onset Asthma

Women who use pesticides may have increased risk of atopic but not non-atopic asthma

MONDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- In farm women, exposure to pesticides may increase the risk of adult-onset atopic asthma but not non-atopic asthma, according to a report published in the Jan. 1 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Jane A. Hoppin, of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C., and colleagues studied 25,814 farm women in the Agricultural Health Study, including 702 (282 atopic, 420 non-atopic) who reported a doctor's diagnoses of asthma after age 19.

The researchers found that women who grew up on a farm were less likely than those who did not to develop either atopic or non-atopic asthma (odds ratios 0.55 and 0.83, respectively). They also found any pesticide usage was associated with an increased risk of atopic asthma only (OR, 1.46), an association that was strongest in women who grew up on farms. The investigators identified seven insecticides, two herbicides and one fungicide that were significantly associated with atopic asthma but only one substance -- permethrin -- which was associated with non-atopic asthma.

"Our study of over 25,000 farm women represents the largest sample of farm women evaluated for adult asthma," the authors conclude. "Our findings are consistent with a protective effect of early-life farm exposures on asthma, and suggest that pesticides, particularly organophosphate insecticides, may increase asthma risk."

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