Pesticide exposure among Bolivian farmers: associations between worker protection and exposure biomarkers

Jessika Barrón Cuenca, Noemi Tirado, Max Vikström, Christian H. Lindh, Ulla Stenius, Karin Leander, Marika Berglund, Kristian Dreij

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The use of pesticides has increased during the past decades, also increasing the risk of exposure to toxic pesticides that can cause detrimental health effects in the future. This is of special concern among farmers in low-to-middle-income countries that may lack proper training in the safe use of these chemicals. To assess the situation in Bolivia a cross-sectional study in three agricultural communities was performed (n = 297). Handling, use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and pesticide exposure were assessed by a questionnaire and measurements of urinary pesticide metabolites (UPMs). Results showed that methamidophos (65%) and paraquat (52%) were the most commonly used pesticides and that 75% of the farmers combined several pesticides while spraying. Notably, only 17% of the farmers used recommended PPEs while 84% reported to have experienced symptoms of acute pesticide poisoning after spraying. UPM measurements indicated high levels of exposure to chlorpyrifos, pyrethroids and 2,4D and that men generally were more highly exposed compared to women. Our study demonstrates that farmers who are better at following recommendations for pesticide handling and use of PPE had a significantly lower risk of having high UPM levels of most measured pesticides. Our results thus confirm the need of proper training of farmers in low-to-middle-income countries in proper protection and pesticide handling in order to reduce exposure levels and health problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)730-742
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2020

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