WELLINGTON, June 16 (Xinhua) -- Agricultural workers have the highest
incidence of leukemia of all New Zealand occupation groups, probably because of
their exposure to chemicals, the Massey University's public health specialists
And women agriculture workers are even more at risk than men, according to
the Centre for Public Health Research.
The center has just released analysis of a study started in 2003-04, when
researchers interviewed 225 cancer patients aged 25-75 and 471 randomly selected
participants from the general population.
They found elevated leukemia risk four or five times greater among market
gardeners and nursery growers compared to the general population. Market farmers
and crop growers, and field crop and vegetable growers, also all experienced
varying degrees of elevated risk.
The study builds on research published by the center last year, which
showed those working in plant nurseries were four times more likely to develop
non-hodgkin's lymphoma, while vegetable growers and those in general
horticulture production have a two-fold risk of developing that disease.
Lead researcher for the latest study Dave McLean said on Tuesday that
market farmers and growers face a risk 1.8 times greater than the average
population, probably due to exposure to pesticides. The overall risk appeared to
be up to 3.4 times greater in women than men.
"It is not clear why this gender difference exists, but it has been
hypothesized that it may be due either to the different tasks (and therefore
potential for exposure) traditionally performed by men and women in
horticultural occupations, or to the fact that some of the chemicals are
endocrine disrupters that affect women in a different way than they do men," he
said in a press release.
Such trends had also been detected in previous studies of workers in
horticultural occupations in Italy, and in workers with occupational exposure to
agricultural chemicals, such as fungicides and insecticides, in the United
States and Italy.
Elevated risk was also found to be associated with ever having worked as a
rubber and plastics products machine operator and also in the plastic product
manufacturing industry, with the chemical 1.3 butadiene, a chemical used in
their manufacture a likely suspect.
An increased risk of contracting leukemia was also suggested for other
occupations including electricians, blacksmiths and toolmakers, slaughterers
along with those working in textile bleaching, dyeing or operating dyeing and
with cleaning machines.
Occupational cancers account for more than 300 deaths in New Zealand each
year, with the National Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee
estimating that 30 deaths annually from leukemia are attributable to
Oxford University Press, on behalf of the International Epidemiological
Association, has published the Center's findings.