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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 63  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 83-85  

Level of endosulfan among women in Talwandi Sabo Block of Southern Punjab, India

1 Research Scholar, Amity Institute of Anthropology, Amity University, Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India
2 Additional Director, Amity Institute of Anthropology, Amity University, Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India
3 Assistant Professor-II, Amity Institute of Anthropology, Amity University, Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India

Date of Web Publication12-Mar-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Ratika Samtani
Amity Institute of Anthropology, Amity University, J3 Block, Human Genetics Lab, Room 219, Sector 125, Noida - 201 303, Uttar Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijph.IJPH_363_17

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Endosulfan is one of the most prevalent organochlorine pesticides used in the agricultural sector in the developing countries including India. It affects the physiological functioning of different organ systems including nervous, immune, hepatic, and reproductive system. Realizing the safety and health concern, restrictions have been imposed at various levels, but the usage has still continued in the plantation crops. Owing to pesticide beneficiary of north India, the cotton belt commonly called the Malwa region of Punjab was evaluated for identifying the levels of Endosulfan in the blood samples of women working in agricultural fields. Gas chromatograph with electron capture detector was used for detecting the levels of endosulfan metabolites among twenty active female workers. The mean level of endosulfan recorded in the tested population was observed to be 2.22 ppb. It is difficult to draw a certain conclusion based on these findings because the subjects were less in number. However, detection of even very low concentrations of endosulfan residues signifies its continued accessibility to the women population. Encouragement of more such population-based research needs to be adopted to determine the body burden of such pesticides in humans. The effective implementation of the ban on Endosulfan could be checked by a combined retrospective and prospective study to infer a justifiable impact.

Keywords: Agriculture, endosulfan, India, organochlorine pesticides, women

How to cite this article:
Sharma N, Deb R, Samtani R. Level of endosulfan among women in Talwandi Sabo Block of Southern Punjab, India. Indian J Public Health 2019;63:83-5

How to cite this URL:
Sharma N, Deb R, Samtani R. Level of endosulfan among women in Talwandi Sabo Block of Southern Punjab, India. Indian J Public Health [serial online] 2019 [cited 2022 Sep 30];63:83-5. Available from:

Pesticide exposure in rural areas affects a section of the population that is highly exposed and vulnerable and constitutes one of the biggest health problems in rural communities. The reckless use both in developed and developing countries in the name of meeting consumer demands has resulted in their bioaccumulation and biomagnification in the food chain.[1] A number of adverse health outcomes in the form of immune suppression, hormone disruption, diminished intelligence, reproductive abnormalities, and cancer are associated with pesticide exposure.[2]

India has an extensive production and usage of organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) in agriculture and vector control as their availability at low prices, effectiveness against diverse pest spectrum and longer half-life has made them easily accessible, and endosulfan is one of the most commonly used organochlorines here. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified endosulfan as highly hazardous while the World Health Organization has regarded it a moderately hazardous pesticide. Studies on animals have shown negative effects of endosulfan detected in varying concentrations on nervous system, immune system. Furthermore, its exposure could affect the male reproductive system of children, congenital physical disorders, mental disabilities, and deaths in farm workers and communities. However, the use is still continuing that is reflected in biological samples.[3]

Understanding that Punjab is an agriculturally enriched state in north India, the parallel growth of pesticides industry has gradually penetrated the ecosystem. Spraying and storage of pesticides in homes and farms are significantly more common in the cotton cultivating Malwa region of Punjab. Talwandi Sabo is one of the frequent pesticide consuming areas of this cotton belt. It has been observed that farmers use 30–35 pesticides spray on a single cotton crop against 8–10 as recommended by agriculture experts.[4] Although male workers dominate in agriculture along with a good amount of research focused to them; cotton picking remains primarily a female-specific job [5] which gives them a good exposure to the sprayed pesticides. Besides, dilution of pesticide concentrate, home pesticide storage, carrying water to the fields, washing work clothes, or reusing empty pesticide containers for domestic purposes are other source of exposure. Nevertheless, very little is known of the potential impact of pesticides on women groups who are involved in such pesticide-related activities. Therefore, the aim of the present study is to determine the level of toxic endosulfan in the blood of women population in Talwandi Sabo block of Punjab to understand the extent of penetrance into the human body.

The present study was approved by the University Ethics Committee. All the procedures followed were in accordance to the Ethical Committee on human experimentation, and the signed consent forms included all the elements and precautions according to the Indian Council of Medical Research standards. The care was taken to maintain the confidentiality of the information procured from the subjects and their identity. The subjects included adult healthy women working in the area of pesticide-related activities and residing in the rural cotton growing region - Talwandi Sabo block, Bathinda district of Punjab for more than 10 years. The exclusion criteria were women suffering from any sort of disease such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular, and respiratory. The sample size was limited to 20 based on the set inclusion criteria and voluntary participation. These women were interviewed in detail by an experienced field worker after getting informed consent. For the purpose, a structured pro forma was used to gather information regarding their reproductive health and social habits. Approximately 5 mL of intravenous blood was collected from each woman by a trained technician in serum separator tubes. The blood samples were allowed to clot at room temperature and thereby centrifuged at 3000 rpm for 15 min. The separated serum aliquots were properly labeled and stored at −20°C until further analysis. Gas chromatographs with electron capture detector using a capillary column were used for detecting the levels of endosulfan metabolites.[6] The test has a high sensitivity and selectivity.[7] Therefore, it could be regarded as the gold standard for detection of pesticide residues in human serum. The samples were analyzed using the US EPA method 8081A as followed by Mathur and his team 13 years back.[6] The trueness of the method was estimated by calculating the recovery from spiked samples with known concentrations. The mean recovery values were ranged from 85.4% to 95.5%. The limit of detection was established as 1 ng/g for OCPs.

The characteristics of the studied population are shown in [Table 1]. All the women were thoroughly checked for any disease symptom before inclusion. None of the 20 suffered from any major illness at the time of interview. They were involved in agricultural activities of pesticide mixing/loading and reuse of pesticide containers at home/lawn for domestic purposes. The mean age of women participants was 40.05 years. Most women (40%) were aged between 41 and 50 years. Nearly 70% of the women were illiterate owing to the rural environment. The direct consumption of tobacco (35%) and alcohol (20%) among the female population was quite low but passive exposure due to male smoking was also considered. About 55% of the women recalled their age at menarche below 14 years. Age at first conception was <20 years for 90% of the women. The mean level of endosulfan residues in the blood samples tested was observed to be 2.22 ppb ranging from 1.02 to 3.91 ppb. [Table 2] depicts a comparative analysis of endosulfan residues in the serum of women in agricultural-dependent countries.
Table 1: Characteristics of the study population

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Table 2: Mean endosulfan levels (ppb) in serum samples of women as reported in various studies

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India is the largest producer of endosulfan worldwide, and consumption is also high for agricultural insect pest control purposes. The present study was conducted exclusively on healthy female population rigorously involved in pesticide-related activities that perhaps have higher amounts of body fat making them more prone to storage of fat toxins in the body.[9] Moreover, exposure to harmful pesticides may cause hormonal changes during pregnancy, lactation, and menopause which may lead to health issues in women. A glance at [Table 2] indicates the presence of endosulfan in the women population from different parts of the world. On comparing the concentration with an earlier study in the same area, the relatively lower level of endosulfan in the present study after 2005 seems to be a positive sign toward its decrease in the environment.[6] Nonetheless, a span of 13 long years has not observed a major drop in the concentration of endosulfan among the women from the region. The presence of endosulfan in agricultural setting even after years of the imposed ban in 2002 suggests its continued usage remaining a matter of discussion thereby demanding regular monitoring in the vulnerable (agricultural) populations. Recent studies out of India have shown a mixed range of endosulfan residues in blood serum of women. Latif et al. detected comparatively lower levels of endosulfan both in agricultural and nonagricultural females from Pakistan.[8] In two studies from Spain, endosulfan was detected in higher amounts in the agricultural females than those in the present samples.[1],[7] The probable reasons could be:First, Spain is known as the main consumer of endosulfan, accounting for almost half of the total volume within the European Union. Second, both the studies were conducted in the early 2000s when usage was quite high compared to the current scenario.

A major limitation of the present study is the small sample size which could be attributed to selection of only those women who were primarily involved in activities such as cotton picking, dilution of pesticide concentrate, home pesticide storage, and washing work clothes. To fulfill the minimal requirements of completing the purpose of a pilot study, therefore, the results achieved so far need to be carried forward with great caution.

Despite variable levels of endosulfan observed from many studies, its current presence among the female agricultural workers of Punjab cannot be ignored. Since endosulfan is known to possess estrogenic properties,[10] there are fair chances of its repeated exposure turning carcinogenic and thereby affecting the overall health. This raises concern for health managers as studies dealing with the agricultural practices of the farmers regarding pesticide use, and its health impact is needed to make informed policy decisions to bring about changes in the agricultural practices in India. Encouragement of more such population-based research needs to be adopted to determine the body burden of such pesticides in humans. The effective implementation of the ban on endosulfan could be checked by a combined retrospective and prospective study to infer a justifiable impact.


The authors would like to express deep gratitude to the village heads and the women participants for their cooperation and participation in the study.

Financial support and sponsorship

This work was supported by the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology-Department of Biotechnology, India.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Cerrillo I, Granada A, López-Espinosa MJ, Olmos B, Jiménez M, Caño A, et al. Endosulfan and its metabolites in fertile women, placenta, cord blood, and human milk. Environ Res 2005;98:233-9.  Back to cited text no. 1
Mrema EJ, Rubino FM, Brambilla G, Moretto A, Tsatsakis AM, Colosio C. Persistent organochlorinated pesticides and mechanisms of their toxicity. Toxicology 2013;307:74-88.  Back to cited text no. 2
Sharma A, Gill JP, Bedi JS. Monitoring of pesticide residues in human blood from Punjab, India. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 2015;94:640-6.  Back to cited text no. 3
Thakur JS, Rao BT, Rajwanshi A, Parwana HK, Kumar R. Epidemiological study of high cancer among rural agricultural community of Punjab in Northern India. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2008;5:399-407.  Back to cited text no. 4
Bakhsh K, Ahmad N, Kamran MA, Hassan S, Abbas Q, Saeed R, et al. Occupational hazards and health cost of women cotton pickers in Pakistani Punjab. BMC Public Health 2016;16:961.  Back to cited text no. 5
Mathur HB, Agarwal HC, Johnson S, Saikia N. CSE Report: Analysis of Pesticide Residues in Blood Samples from Villages of Punjab. New Delhi: Centre for Science and Environment, Pollution Monitoring Laboratory; 2005. p. 1-21.  Back to cited text no. 6
Arrebola FJ, Martínez Vidal JL, Fernández-Gutiérrez A. Analysis of endosulfan and its metabolites in human serum using gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. J Chromatogr Sci 2001;39:177-82.  Back to cited text no. 7
Latif Y, Sherazi ST, Bhanger MI, Nizamani S. Evaluation of pesticide residues in human blood samples of agro professionals and non-agro professionals. Am J Anal Chem 2012;3:587-95.  Back to cited text no. 8
Pathak R, Suke SG, Ahmed RS, Tripathi AK, Guleria K, Sharma CS, et al. Endosulfan and other organochlorine pesticide residues in maternal and cord blood in North Indian population. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 2008;81:216-9.  Back to cited text no. 9
Briz V, Molina-Molina JM, Sánchez-Redondo S, Fernández MF, Grimalt JO, Olea N, et al. Differential estrogenic effects of the persistent organochlorine pesticides dieldrin, endosulfan, and lindane in primary neuronal cultures. Toxicol Sci 2011;120:413-27.  Back to cited text no. 10


  [Table 1], [Table 2]

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