Thursday, 10 January 2008

Study on farmers: Pesticides can damage DNA


January 9, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Jan 8: Pesticides will cause severe genetic damage in persons who regularly handle them. The genetic defects are also passed on to their offspring triggering a chain of DNA related health problem from one generation to the next.
A study carried out by the department of genetics of Bhagawan Mahavir Medical Research Centre here, revealed that pesticides can cause cytogenetic (damage to cells and DNA) effects, besides lowering the acetyl cholinesterase (an important enzyme in blood) levels in farmers exposed to pesticides. Andhra Pradesh has the dubious distinction of being the largest consumer of chemical pesticides and fertilisers and many farmers in the State do not use safety measures to avoid pesticide poisoning.
Naravaneni Rambabu and Kaiser Jamil of Mahavir Medical Research Centre enrolled 210 farmers exposed to pesticides and 160 non-exposed individuals to determine the genotoxicity (genetic poisoning) and acetyl cholinesterase (AChE) levels. They determined the AChE levels from blood samples collected from farmers and control subjects.
Later, the scientists conducted AChE (true and pseudo) estimation by colorimetric method. It revealed that there was a progressive fall in both the RBC and plasma AChE levels in exposed individuals compared to unexposed individuals.
They said there was an increase in DNA damage and higher chromosomal aberrations in exposed farmers compared to the control subjects. When they compared the AChE levels with DNA damage and structural chromosomal aberration frequencies, there was a negative linear correlation.
The study gains significance in the backdrop of increase in pesticide and fertiliser consumption in the State by almost 100 times in the last three decades. Even introduction of genetically engineered crops like Bt cotton has not brought down the percentage of pesticide or fertiliser consumption in the State.

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