Toxic effects on eyes result from exposure to pesticides via inhalation, ingestion, dermal contact and ocular exposure. Exposure of unprotected eyes to pesticides results in the absorption in ocular tissue and potential ocular toxicity. Recent literature on the risks of ocular toxicity from pesticide exposure is limited.
Ocular toxicity from pesticide exposure, including the dose-response relationship, has been studied in different animal species. Cholinesterase enzymes have been detected in animal ocular tissue, with evidence of organophosphate-induced inhibition. Pathological effects of pesticides have been observed in conjunctiva, cornea, lens, retina and the optic nerve. Pesticide exposure has been associated with retinopathy in agricultural workers and wives of farmers who used pesticides. Saku disease, an optico-autonomic peripheral neuropathy, has been described in Japan in people living in an area where organophosphates were used. Pesticide exposure is also associated with abnormal ocular movements.
Progressive toxic ocular effects leading to defective vision are a serious health concern. Agricultural workers are at high risk of exposure to pesticides and associated ocular toxicity. Primary prevention is the appropriate method of protecting eyes from pesticide-related damage. This includes improved eye safety and care in workplaces, and effective pesticide regulation for maintenance of public eye health.