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Evaluation of work place pesticide concentration and health complaints among women workers in tea plantation, Southern India



Women contribute fifty percent of the total work force in tea plantation sector. The continuous use of chemical pesticides in plantation may increase the risk of exposure and can cause detrimental health effects.


To assess the health status of women worker exposed to pesticides in tea plantation and to evaluate the pesticide levels in work environment.


A cross sectional study was performed (n = 204) to assess the health complaints among exposed women workers (n = 116) and non-exposed women (n = 88) using a predesigned questionnaire. Work environmental air samples collected using PUF sampler and personal samplers were analyzed for various pesticides.


Musculoskeletal disorder, skin color changes, allergies and asthma were the most commonly reported health complaints. Notably, only 16% of the women used personal protective equipment (PPE) while 68% reported to have experienced tea plantation work up to 6 month of their pregnancy period. Chlorpyrifos methyl (8.3%), carbendazim (6.7%), thiamethoxam (4.2%), ethion (4.2%) and thiophanate methyl (2.1%) were detected in work place air samples.


This study is the first to characterize pesticide levels in work place of women workers in India. Women are continuously exposed to pesticides through their work and environmental exposure. Preventive measures are essential to mitigate the adverse health effects of pesticides among women workers.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2: Work practices of tea plantation women workers and comparison of musculoskeletal disorders and chronic diseases with nonworking women.

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This study was financially supported by the Science & Engineering Research Board (SERB), Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India under the Fast Track Scheme for Young Scientist to Dr Dhananjayan Venugopal (File No: SB/FT/LS-140/2012 Dated 26th April 2013). We are thankful to Dr Kamalesh Sarkar, Director, ICMR-National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad for his continuous support and encouragement in research and publication. Authors are thankful to ROHC(S) staff, the Deputy Director Health Services, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, Block Medical Officer, Valparai, Mrs. Fathima, Village Health Nurse, Primary Health Centre, Valparai Tamil Nadu for their support in biological sample collection in the field.

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Venugopal, D., Karunamoorthy, P., Beerappa, R. et al. Evaluation of work place pesticide concentration and health complaints among women workers in tea plantation, Southern India. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 31, 560–570 (2021).

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