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In Thorax, Negatu et al describe two cross-sectional studies exploring the effects of exposure to pesticides on lung health in commercial farming systems in Ethiopia.1 They found a markedly increased risk of chronic cough and shortness of breath and impaired ventilatory function in exposed versus unexposed groups. These studies are the largest of their kind conducted in Ethiopia or the wider sub-Saharan Africa.2
The finding that exposure to pesticides is associated with an increased risk of respiratory symptoms, airways disease and impaired ventilator function is, however, not new. Mamane et al2 published a review of the literature on occupational exposure to pesticides and lung health in 2015 that included 36 studies involving agricultural workers. The studies included in the review were broadly consistent in finding a positive association between occupational exposure to pesticides and a range of markers of lung health.2
In the UK, a high-income country, only 15% of workers have access to occupational health. It is therefore not a surprise that occupational health might be neglected in Ethiopia and other low/middle-income countries under pressure from overwhelming social, economic and political challenges. …
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