Chemical Exposures

Chemical exposures in agriculture and farming can be manifold and heterogeneous. This is especially true for the handling of pesticides, an exposure category often used in the occupational medical literature (see Chapter 16). Although liver and kidney damage from agrochemicals is noted with some regularity both in high-dose animal toxicology testing and in case reports from accidental or suicidal poisoning, these findings are hardly transferable to occupational or environmental human exposure situations. The reason for the findings in animals is that many of these chemicals through their metabolism may lead to adaptive responses such as enzyme induction, organ enlargement, and, finally, to overload phenomena at the highest doses that are not normally achievable in human workplaces. Consequently, a general risk increase for liver disease caused by agrochemicals is doubtful, and no reports are available regarding the general risk for kidney effects. However, in situations with poor occupational hygiene and lack of personal protective equipment, eventually aggravated by unfavorable climatic conditions, high exposures to agrochemicals with the occurrence of mostly acute adverse health effects are possible. Other chemical exposures in agriculture such as solvents may have well-known liver- or kidney-damaging properties associated with certain uses; however, their relevance for farmers and farm workers has rarely been assessed. Given these limitations, only some generic remarks on chemicals in farming can be made and some specific examples for toxic effects on liver or kidney can be given (18).

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