Workers who are exposed to pesticides or metals on the job may be significantly more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases, a U.S. study suggests.
Individuals who were exposed to pesticides were more than twice as likely overall to have conditions like heart disease, heart failure or an irregular rapid heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation. Metal exposure was associated with a four-fold increase in risk for atrial fibrillation.
Our study suggests that occupational exposures to metals or pesticides is associated with an elevated prevalence of coronary heart disease and atrial fibrillation,” lead study author Maria Argos of the University of Illinois at Chicago commented to Reuters.
Researchers examined data on occupational exposure to solvents, metals and pesticides for 7,404 workers who were part of a Hispanic/Latino health study in four cities: Chicago, San Diego, Miami and New York.
6.5 percent of participants reported exposure to solvents at work, 8.5 percent encountered potentially toxic metals and 4.7 percent had pesticide exposure.
It’s not exactly clear why this is the case, or whether Hispanic workers might be more or less susceptible to heart problems associated with pesticide exposure than people from other racial or ethnic groups, Argos said.
Overall, 6.1 percent of the workers in the study had at least one form of cardiovascular disease. Most of these cases were coronary heart disease, in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the heart.
It’s possible that exposure to pesticides or metals might increase inflammation or directly cause damage in the cardiovascular system, Argos said.
Workers exposed to pesticides were 2.2 times more likely to have coronary heart disease than workers without this exposure. Pesticide exposure was also associated with nearly six times the odds of atrial fibrillation and a 38 percent higher risk of blood vessel damage in the brain.
Organic solvents used for tasks like degreasing, dry cleaning and making things like paint, plastics and textiles were not associated with an increased risk of heart problems, the researchers reported in the journal Heart.