Occupational Risk Exposures and Adverse Health Findings Among Farmers in Southern Philippines

  • Jinky Leilanie Lu National Institutes of Health, University of the Philippines Manila
  • Emma K. Salas Department of Agriculture, University of Southern Mindanao, Kabakan, North Cotabato
Keywords: farmers, agricultural workers, occupational health and safety, pesticides


Introduction. Pesticides are widely used in the agricultural sector to increase production by cutting costs and improving product quality. However, these chemicals come with serious health effects when individuals are exposed to large quantities at once or low amounts over time.

Objective. This study aimed to identify the health symptoms and physical assessment findings affecting farmers from their repeated occupational exposure to pesticides in a rural region in the Philippines.

Methods. This research study used a cross-sectional design, and samples were drawn based on a multistage sampling of 387 agricultural workers. The target site was in the southern Philippines, and the sample was selected randomly from the identified municipalities. Survey questionnaires were given to the respondents, and a physical assessment was made by medical doctors and trained registered nurses. The data were encoded using SPSS™ 13.0. The statistics used were both descriptive and inferential.

Results. The farmers used pesticides in their farms with an average of 2.3 days per week (SD: 2.13). The mean total spraying time was 3.07 hours (SD: ± 14.76) per day. The average amount of pesticide used in an application was 1.33 L per application (SD: ± 6.53). Sixty-three percent (63%) had spills while spraying, and 47% reported having spilled pesticides while mixing. Farmers were assessed and found to have experienced symptoms and exhibited physical assessment findings surrounding the following body systems: general, EENT, neurologic, gastrointestinal, respiratory, cardiovascular, and integumentary systems. Abnormalities in laboratory parameters were also observed among the respondents. The mini-mental state examination was done to test if the respondents showed signs of cognitive impairment. The results showed that most respondents (93.95%) had normal cognitive function, while 6.05% of respondents had some level of cognitive impairment. Associations were also tested using Phi Coefficient, and certain pesticide exposure variables were associated with farmers' physical findings and symptoms experienced by farmers.

Conclusion. This study translates pesticide’s health impact by identifying the common symptoms experienced by farmers and concerning physical assessment findings. The study found that farmers suffered from various symptoms concerning the general health, eye, ears, nose, and throat region, neurological system, gastrointestinal system, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, and the integumentary system. In addition, the laboratory parameters of the participants also exhibited abnormalities indicative of exposure and possible adverse effects from pesticides.