Farmacology or Farm Ecology

Pesticides leads to lupus and rheumatoid arthitis

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) We already knew pesticides caused many cancers, but now research has been extended to autoimmune diseases.  

A lengthy study involving 77,000 women showed that greater exposure to pesticides results in a higher likelihood of developing lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr. Christine G. Parks of NIEHS led the lengthy study showing that frequent or extended exposure to pesticides may increase the risk of developing such autoimmune diseases as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

dailyRx Insight: Avoid applying pesticides as it can lead to lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

The most affected group were women who lived on a farm and applied pesticides themselves for 20 years. They showed a three fold greater risk of developing lupus or rheumatoid arthritis as the women who did not apply any pesticides for 20 years.

The group of women who did not live on a farm but regularly applied pesticides for 20 years and the group of women who did not live on a farm and applied pesticides only six times a year had a two times greater risk of developing lupus or rheumatoid arthritis as the group who did not apply pesticides. 

Almost one billion pounds of pesticides, typically used to kill termites, fleas and household bugs, are spread into our environment each year.

Even though over 1,400 of these pesticides are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA), exposure to chemicals found in these pesticides has been associated with a variety of cancers including breast, colon, prostate and lung cancer.

Further, some research has shown higher rates of various cancers in farmers, pesticide applicators and manufacturers compared to the general, non-using public.

Close to 200,000 people in the United States have lupus, with women being affected nine times more than men. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that attacks multiple organ systems and connective tissues in the body. It is incurable, but treatable, and most people with lupus will live a normal lifespan. Women of Afro-Caribbean descent are affected three times more often than other groups. The initial symptoms of lupus are fever, joint pains and fatigue. About 30% of lupus patients have dermatologic symptoms, with 30%-50% getting the characteristic butterfly shaped rash on the face. Another very serious complication is end stage renal disease (ESRD), and kidney transplants are common. There is no single genetic cause for lupus, but many different genes have been identified as contributors to developing lupus. The most important genes for lupus development are located in the chromosome 6 HLA region. Lupus can also be drug induced by quinidine, phenytoin (Dilantin), hydralazine (Apresoline), and procainamide (Pronestyl), but is fortunately reversible. Drugs used to treat lupus are frequently DMARDS (disease modifying antirheumatic drugs) such as Humira, Rituxan, Remicade, methotrexate, and Enbrel. Steroids and other immunosuppressants help reduce symptoms as well (Belimumab, Atacicept). Painkillers, such as Vicodin or Darvocet are common and often necessary. An ANA (antinuclear antibody) blood test can be used to diagnosis lupus.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 26, 2011
Last Updated:
April 1, 2011