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Pesticides and exposures from traditional textile industry associated with own and offspring health in indigenous Guatemalan communities

Harmful work environments are a global challenge, most prominent in deprived societies. New science suggests toxic exposures may affect germline cells and thereby health and disease in future offspring, and that father’s exposures may be as important as the mother’s. If true, radical rethinking of preventive strategies is needed - can also offspring benefit from improved work conditions in parents?

A guatemalan handmade textile for background
Colourbox 60019621, A Guatemalan handmade textile for background


This project brings together occupational health and epigenetic experts, anthropologists and local organizations, aiming to generate actionable knowledge on occupational and environmental exposures in indigenous communities in Guatemala and impact on the workers and their offspring’s respiratory health; and explore epigenetic mechanisms for transfer of exposure effects to offspring; with a research governance approach that builds trust and partnership with communities and stakeholders to ensure the research results can be acted upon. We will study families of indigenous weavers working in the production of traditional Mayan textiles in Guatemala.

Occupational and environmental exposure to textile dust, endotoxins and chemical exposures (dyes, pesticides) will be measured in environmental samples, urine and blood. We will analyse how such exposures are associated with respiratory health of the workers, and how mothers and fathers’ exposures relate to growth/height and respiratory health of their offspring. Epidemiological analyses will be supported and guided by mechanistic studies, of how parental exposures relate to offspring DNA methylation and to miRNA in sperm (fathers).

Citizens-led approaches will be applied to raise awareness among families while shaping policy processes at the local, national and global levels. This unique interdisciplinary project with a two-generation study in neglected population, unprecedented mechanistic work in humans and key partnerships, has the potential to generate high-level insights, relevant to policy and practice on all levels.