Rheumatoid arthritis in women associated with pesticide exposure

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A study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives has now examined the possible association between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and exposure to pesticides and other farm chemicals. The findings have come from The Agricultural Health Study, a long-term study examining the health of farm workers and their families in Iowa and North Carolina. RA is an autoimmune disease characterized by pain and inflammation of the joints. Previous studies had drawn a link between pesticide application and exposure on crop farms with the development of RA. However, few have examined the effect of exposure to specific pesticides. In this study, the authors compared data regarding exposure to 15 different pesticides for study participants who developed RA (275 women) with over 24,000 female study participant who did not develop RA. Of the 15 pesticides examined, exposure to glyphosate, maneb and mancozeb was significantly associated with the development of RA.  Exposure to other chemicals including cleaning solvents and chemical fertilizers was also linked to RA. Interestingly, exposure to livestock was negatively associated with development of RA (those exposed to livestock were less likely to develop RA). “Our results suggest that specific agricultural pesticides, solvents, and chemical fertilizers may increase the risk of RA in women, while exposures involving animal contact may be protective,” the authors concluded.