Exposure to pesticides can significantly lower bone formation at tissue and cellular levels, according to an analysis of bone density in agricultural workers.

Researchers in Cambridge conducted a study of 24 agricultural workers seeking litigation for ill health caused by chronic exposure to organophosphates. The men had been exposed to organophosphates for between three and 20 years at some point in their lives.

Bone biopsies showed significant erosion of the bone in the exposed men and much lower bone formation at the tissue and cellular level, when compared to non exposed controls.

Because of lack of data, the researchers were unable to say categorically whether the damage to the bone was a direct or indirect cause of exposure to organophosphates. While the pesticide may directly enter the bone and damage it, it may also produce other health effects which limit an individual’s level of physical activity and thus impact on bone health (Lancet, 1999; 354: 1791-2).

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