EAST LANSING, Mich. – A Michigan State University study is the first to show an association between unusually high pesticide exposure and poor sense of smell among aging farmers.
The research examined more than 11,200 farmers over a 20-year period. At the start of the study, about 16 percent of participants reported having experienced a high pesticide exposure event, or HPEE, such as a large amount of pesticide spilling on their body. Two decades later, they were asked if they suffered olfactory impairment, a partial to complete loss of sense of smell.
Farmers who reported an HPEE were 50 percent more likely to report a poor sense of smell at the end of the study. The research also showed that an immediate washing with soap and water might mitigate risk. Compared to farmers who never experienced a high exposure event, those who did and washed within three hours, had about a 40 percent higher risk of having problems with smell. Those who waited four or more hours, saw their risk potentially double.