Exposures to cholinesterase inhibitor crop protection products (e.g. organophosphates) have been associated with altered short-term neurological behaviors in children, reports a paper published in the May 2017 issue of the journal NeuroToxicology. Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Ecuador and Minnesota found a relation between these children’s neurobehavioral alterations and a peak pesticide spraying season; Mother's Day's flower harvest.
“Our findings, although cross-sectional, are among the first in non-worker children to suggest that a peak use period for crop protection products (the Mother’s Day flower production) may transiently affect neurobehavioral performance, as children examined sooner after the flower harvest had lower neurobehavioral performance than children examined,” said first author Jose R. Suarez-Lopez, assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine.
The study tested 308 children, aged four to nine, who did not work in agriculture but who lived in agricultural communities in Ecuador prior to peak Mother’s Day flower production and within 100 days after harvest. Behavior and blood tests were conducted.
In an article by Scott LaFee, UC San Diego, it is explained that organophosphate-based crop protection products, commonly used to treat flowers for pests before export, inhibit an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase (AChE) that regulates acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter vital to promoting communications between nerve cells in the brain and body. The insecticides are also directly toxic to neurons and supporting cells called glia. In previous research, Suarez-Lopez and colleagues had shown that lower AChE activity is associated with lower attention, inhibitory control and memory scores, again affecting boys more than girls.
The authors note that the study was cross-sectional, collecting and analyzing observational data on a representative population for a specific point in time. “Our findings need to be replicated in studies of children with assessments conducted before, during and after peak exposure periods,” said Suarez-Lopez. “But given the evidence thus far, and the potential for pesticide exposure to alter both short- and long-term learning abilities, cognition, social interactions and overall well-being, taking additional precautions to shield children from exposure is certainly advised.”
Click here to read the article written by Scott LaFee on www.universityofcalifornia.edu