A new study by Deakin University researchers will help better protect farmers from pesticides.
The results will be used to develop a new test that monitors farmers’ exposure to pesticides and provides valuable long-term information about their chemical use.
Exposure to some types of pesticides commonly used on farms can lower the levels of certain enzymes essential to a healthy nervous system. This leads to excessive sweating, nausea and dizziness in cases of mild exposure and diarrhoea, irregular heartbeat and abdominal pain after extreme exposure.
Preliminary results from the Deakin University study found enzyme levels were lower in farmers with high exposure to widely used insecticides.
Dr Jacquie Cotton said farmers often raised concerns about the effects agrichemicals might be having on their bodies during the regular health checks offered as part of Deakin University’s work with farmers, farmworkers and their families.
“Greater amounts of chemicals are used at certain times of the year than at others, and chemical use also varies between different types of farming, such as cropping or animal production,” she said.
Dr Cotton said the study’s results would hopefully lead to the development of an annual test.
“Right now, such data doesn’t exist for Australian farmers. We have to rely on data from the United States about the possible health effects of chronic, low-level exposure to agrichemicals,” she said.
“We also want to provide a personalised indication of chemical exposure that doesn’t compare our farmers to a US population, but rather to what’s normal for an Australian farmer population.”
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