Pesticide-related illness reported to and diagnosed in Primary Care: implications for surveillance of environmental causes of ill-health

Rushton, Lesley; Mann, Vera
January 2009
BMC Public Health;2009, Vol. 9 Issue 1, p219
Academic Journal
Background: In Great Britain (GB), data collected on pesticide associated illness focuses on acute episodes such as poisonings caused by misuse or abuse. This study aimed to investigate the extent and nature of pesticide-related illness presented and diagnosed in Primary Care and the feasibility of establishing a routine monitoring system. Methods: A checklist, completed by General Practitioners (GP) for all patients aged 18+ who attended surgery sessions, identified patients to be interviewed in detail on exposures and events that occurred in the week before their symptoms appeared. Results: The study covered 59320 patients in 43 practices across GB and 1335 detailed interviews. The annual incidence of illness reported to GPs because of concern about pesticide exposure was estimated to be 0.04%, potentially 88400 consultations annually, approximately 1700 per week. The annual incidence of consultations where symptoms were diagnosed by GPs as likely to be related to pesticide exposure was 0.003%, an annual estimate of 6630 consultations i.e. about 128 per week. 41% of interviewees reported using at least one pesticide at home in the week before symptoms occurred. The risk of having symptoms possibly related to pesticide exposure compared to unlikely was associated with home use of pesticides after adjusting for age, gender and occupational pesticide exposure (OR = 1.88, 95% CI 1.51 - 2.35). Conclusion: GP practices were diverse and well distributed throughout GB with similar symptom consulting patterns as in the Primary Care within the UK. Methods used in this study would not be feasible for a routine surveillance system for pesticide related illness. Incorporation of environmental health into Primary Care education and practice is needed.


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