People with higher levels of pesticide exposure are more likely to have suicidal thoughts, a new study has claimed.

An international team, led by Dr. Robert Stewart of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, has carried out the study and found a link between pesticides exposure and suicidal deaths.

The study, carried out in China, found that people who stored pesticides at home, i.e., those with more exposure, were more likely to report recent suicidal thoughts.

In fact, the analysis involved data from a survey of a representative sample of 9,811 rural residents in Zhejiang province who had been asked about the storage of pesticides at home and about whether or not they had considered suicide within the two years before the interview.

Supporting this, the findings also revealed suicidal thoughts to be associated with how easily accessible these pesticides were in the home and that the geographic areas with highest home storage of pesticides also had highest levels of suicidal thoughts in their populations.

“Organophosphate pesticides are widely used around the world although are banned in many countries because of their risk to health. They are particularly lethal chemicals when taken in overdose and are a cause of many suicides worldwide.

“Our research findings that suggest that higher exposure to these chemicals might actually increase the risk of suicidal thoughts provides further support for calls for tighter international restrictions on agricultural pesticide availability and use,” Dr. Stewart said.

Co.researcher Dr. Jianmin Zhang said: “The findings of this study suggested potential causal links and might partially account for the much higher incidence of suicide in rural than urban areas of China.

“However, further studies particularly with more precisely defined and assessed exposure are critically needed, as awareness of safer access to pesticides is important both to policy makers and pesticide users.”

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