A team of epidemiologists studied the impact of occupational exposures to organic solvents, metals, and pesticides among 7,404 Hispanic/Latino workers in four major urban areas, and reported a surprisingly high Odds Ratio of 2.18 (confidence interval of 1.34 to 3.55) for some form of cardiovascular disease, or CVD.
For atrial fibrillation (a-fib), one of the forms of CVD studied, the Odds Ratio for those workers exposed to pesticides was extremely high — 5.92 (1.89 to 18.61) — and by far the highest Odds Ratio among all risk factors analyzed by the team.
These are among the findings from ongoing research that is part of the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL), a community-based prospective cohort study.
Given that study participants lived and worked in urban areas, the workers reporting occupational exposure to pesticides were likely to be applying them in or around urban structures, or working to control a variety of pests ranging from mice and rats to mosquitos, cockroaches, bees, weeds, and ants.
Significantly, the strength of association between pesticide use at work and CVD was heightened the longer a person had held his or her job, suggesting that repeated exposures heighten the risk of CVD. In addition, male workers reported exposures 2-3 times more frequently than women.
The team speculated that a number of mechanisms might explain the impact of pesticide use and exposures on CVD including degeneration of myocardial fibers, and adverse impacts on sodium and calcium balancing.
These findings are preliminary, but worrisome. The team calls for further research on occupational exposure levels and patterns, including identification of the pesticides used. Such work is clearly needed, and ASAP, given that between 5% and 9% of employed Hispanics/Latinos in urban areas are exposed to potentially dangerous solvents, metals, and pesticides.
Catherine Bulka et al., “Association of occupational exposures with cardiovascular disease among US Hispanics/Latinos,” Heart Journal, 2018. doi:10.1136/heartjnl-2018-313463