Asthama's female bias

By Rohini Rangarajan
Published: Friday 29 February 2008

it is believed that women who grow up on farms have a strong immunity and face a lower risk of allergies than those who don't grow up on farms.

A study has found that farm women may be at a risk of contracting allergic asthma--the reason is pesticides. The chemicals lower resistance levels to allergens, says the first-of-its-kind study that tracked about 26,000 women in North Carolina and Iowa, usa.

The Agricultural Health Study, started in 1994 by the us National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, looks at a wide range of health outcomes among licenced pesticide applicators and their families potentially exposed to pesticides and other agricultural hazards. It has also evaluated the increased risk of contracting diseases like cancer, eye disorders and neurological problems.

The women while answering the survey questions revealed they were exposed to 50 different types of pesticides, including herbicides like 2,4-d and glyphosate, insecticides like carbaryl, ddt, malathion, parathion, and fungicides like metalaxyl. Exposure to organophosphates was found to be the most harmful. The researchers say they will now work on establishing a more certain link between pesticides and asthma. The study was published in the January issue of American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Jai Raj Bihari, head of analytical toxicology unit of the Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Lucknow, said pesticides and other chemicals would affect women more as they are known to be generally undernourished. Such studies have not been carried out in India, he adds.

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