1. Agriculture World

Farmers at Risk of Genotoxic Damage in Punjab

Prity Barman
Prity Barman
Use of pesticides

Farm workers in Punjab are at a higher risk of genotoxic damage due to the heavy use of pesticides, which relates to the properties of chemical agents that damage the genetic material within a cell, inducing mutations and contributing to severe disorders such as cancer. 

Punjab, an agrarian province, is the country's third largest user of pesticides. 

A research by Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, to examine chromosomal aberrations among pesticide-exposed farm workers and non-pesticide-exposed non-agricultural workers indicates that persistent exposure to pesticides contributes to more abundant chromosome loss. 

Blood samples of 296 people were tested by 148 agricultural workers and 148 non-agricultural workers, and peripheral blood lymphocytes of exposed subjects were shown to have a high level of aberrations relative to non-exposed subjects. The farm workers included in the study had an overall history of exposure of 25 years, while half of them recorded prior pesticide exposure within the last 15 days. 70 percent of them never used personal protective equipment (PPE) during the treatment of pesticides during their occupational activities. 

As people are aware of the advantages of PPE kits in the present Covid19 pandemic situation, it has been proposed to make it compulsory for farm staff to wear PPE when handling pesticides. The research, conducted by GNDU's Department of Human Genetics, Anupam Kaur and Meenakshi Ahluwalia, stressed the encouragement of the use of alternative farming, such as organic farming, and the use of biological pesticides for pest control.

‘Aromatic hydrocarbons are composed of essential oils and are secondary metabolites of plants that have insecticidal, nematocidal, fungicidal, ovicidal, and bactericidal effects. Those can be used as an option to chemical pesticides and need to be marketed as a pest control technique,' said Anupam Kaur. 

It was observed that over 93% of farm workers subjected to pesticides had a greater burden of chromosomal aberrations with a higher frequency of aneuploidy. The incidence of acute health problems during the handling of pesticides was recorded by over 26 percent of the exposed participants. 

Participants exposed to pesticides were shown to have a dramatically high presence of pathological metaphases (15.47± 0.81) relative to non-exposed participants (3.70± 0.33). 

Strict steps for the proper disposal and treatment of these toxic substances have been emphasized in order to reduce contamination and potential health consequences for people coming into direct or indirect contact with pesticides. 

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