Pesticide use and serum acetylcholinesterase levels among flower farm workers in Ethiopia—a cross-sectional study
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH). 2020, 17 (3), 964. 10.3390/ijerph17030964
The flower industry in East Africa has grown in recent years, especially in the production and export of roses. The aim of this study was to assess pesticide use on selected flower farms in Ethiopia. Serum cholinesterase levels in workers were used as a marker of pesticide exposure. This study was a cross-sectional study involving 588 workers from 15 different flower farms. It had a response rate of 95.5%. The participants included 277 males (mean age 26 years; 148 pesticide sprayers and 129 non-sprayers) and 311 females (mean age 25 years; 156 working in greenhouses and 155 working outside the greenhouses). The researchers undertook structured interviews, blood sampling, and walkthrough surveys. Descriptive statistics and Poisson regression were used in the statistical analyses. A total of 154 different trade names of pesticides were found. Of them, 31 (27%) were classified as moderately hazardous by the WHO, and 9% were organophosphates. Serum levels of cholinesterase deviating from 50–140 Michel units were considered abnormal. Abnormal serum cholinesterase levels (above 140 Michel units) were found in 97 participants (16.5%, 95% confidence interval 13.7–19.7%). There were no differences between the four job groups regarding cholinesterase levels. The high prevalence of abnormal serum cholinesterase levels might indicate the presence of pesticide intoxication. Thus, there is a need for routine monitoring of all workers exposed to pesticides, not only sprayers.