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Toxicological evaluation of the immune function of pesticide workers

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Understanding effects of pesticides on immunity

Exposure to pesticides is a reality for a great proportion of the human population. Examining, the long-term effects of prolonged, low-dose exposure to these contaminants has been the focus of the EUROPIT project.

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Laboratory data have suggested in the past that exposure to pesticides for prolonged periods of time could result in immune system abnormalities. Researchers at the Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine in Poland carried out a series of field studies across the Europe to examine the effects of exposure. The studies were carried out on Bulgarian, Finnish, Italian and Dutch genetic samples. A series of genes were studied, including the IL-1 group of genes, heavily involved in immune system function. The aim was to elucidate the effect of occupational pesticide exposure on genotypes and to determine whether genetic background had any role to play in pesticide effects. Studying gene polymorphisms, in other words the genetic variations of specific sequences in the population, was intended to underline links between genetic predisposition and pesticide toxicity. The data revealed that for IL-1 gene polymorphisms in particular, no specific links could be discerned between genetic factors and pesticide exposure effects. Scientists are seeking further support for this line of research in order to fully elucidate the effects of pesticides on those exposed to them in the long-term.

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