Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig 2016, 67(2): 121-130

Salivary cotinine levels as a biomarker for green tobacco sickness in dry tobacco production among Thai traditional tobacco farmers.
[Salivary cotinine levels as a biomarker for green tobacco sickness in dry tobacco production among Thai traditional tobacco farmers.]

T. Saleeon, W. Siriwong, H.L. Maldonado-Pérez, M.G. Robson

Background. Dry Thai traditional tobacco (Nicotiana Tabacum L.) production involves a unique process: (a) picking tobacco leaves, (b) curing tobacco leaves, (c) removing stems of tobacco leaves, cutting leaves and putting on a bamboo rack, (d) drying in the sun, reversing a rack, spraying a tobacco extract to adjust the tobacco’s color, storing dried tobacco and packaging. These processes may lead to adverse health effects caused by dermal absorption of nicotine such as Green Tobacco Sickness (GTS).
Objectives. The aim of this study was to determine the correlation between GTS resulting from dry Thai traditional tobacco production and salivary cotinine levels among Thai traditional tobacco farmers in Nan Province, Thailand.
Materials and Methods. A prospective cohort study was conducted with 20 tobacco farmers and 20 non-tobacco farmers in Praputtabath Sub-District and Phatow Sub-District. The participants were randomly selected and interviewed using in person questionnaires with bi-weekly follow-up for 14 weeks. During each contact, the cotinine concentration was measured by NicAlertTM Saliva strip tests (NCTS). Descriptive statistics and Spearman’s correlation (Spearman’s rho) was used to examine the relationship between the variables at both 0.01 and 0.05 significant probability levels.
Results. This study indicated that GTS from dry tobacco production has the potential to be considered a common occupational disease. This study demonstrated the usefulness of salivary cotinine level measurements by NCTS. The levels were well correlated with farmers who were employed in the dry Thai tobacco production industry. Salivary cotinine levels were also significantly correlated with the prevalence of GTS in the group of tobacco farmers at any given time within a crop season. However, the production process of dry Thai traditional tobacco is different from that evaluated in our previous studies where GTS and salivary cotinine level were correlated in workers working in humid conditions.
Conclusions. The long-term effects of such exposure should be investigated and health education programs with health risk exposure studies to increase awareness amongst farmers is recommended.

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