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Papers of the Week

2019 Oct 01

Sci Total Environ


Health problems from pesticide exposure and personal protective measures among women cotton workers in southern Pakistan.


Memon Q U A, Wagan S A, Chunyu D, Shuangxi X, Jingdong L, Damalas CA
Sci Total Environ. 2019 Oct 01; 685:659-666.
PMID: 31200258.


Women are the main cotton pickers in Pakistan even from their childhood, but due to unawareness of pesticide risks and poor knowledge of personal protection opportunities, they typically do not use personal protective measures. Albeit a major agricultural topic in Pakistan, relevant research is limited. The present study illustrates health problems from pesticide exposure during cotton harvest and the use of personal protective measures among 260 female cotton-picking workers from Shaheed Benazirabad District of Sindh Province in southern Pakistan. Skin injury, eye injury, headache, stomachache, and fever were the main health problems due to pesticide exposure according to workers' experience. Medical treatment costs of health problems were more than double (2.48 times higher) than preventive measures costs. More than half of the cotton workers surveyed did not use any protective measure during cotton picking, while 22.3% used a muffler/scarf/cloth for covering their face and 10.8% used gloves. Covering face with muffler/scarf/cloth was higher in young (P < 0.05), married (P < 0.05), and high experienced workers (P < 0.05), while no significant trends were found in the use of gloves. The use of protective measures was positively correlated with education and some experience in cotton picking. Binary logit regression showed that advanced age and high picking experience were positively associated with the use of personal protective measures, while illiteracy, traditional treatment, and medical treatment in case of illness were negatively associated with the use of personal protective measures. Findings shed new light on the topic of personal safety among women cotton pickers in Pakistan. Increasing formal education and implementing training programs for personal protective measures are important to reduce health risk and health cost by pesticides among women workers.