Peripheral Nervous System Function and Organophosphate Pesticide Use among Licensed Pesticide Applicators in the Agricultural Health Study

Background: Evidence is limited that long-term human exposure to organophosphate (OP) pesticides, without poisoning, is associated with adverse peripheral nervous system (PNS) function. Objective: To investigate associations between OP pesticide use and PNS function, we administered PNS tests to 701 male pesticide applicators in the Agricultural Health Study (AHS). Methods: Participants completed a neurological physical examination (NPx), electrophysiological tests, and tests of hand strength, sway speed and vibrotactile threshold. Self-reported information on lifetime use of 16 OP pesticides was obtained from AHS interviews and a study questionnaire. Associations between pesticide use and measures of PNS function were estimated with linear and logistic regression controlling for age and outcome-specific covariates. Results: Significantly increased odds ratios were observed for associations between ever-use of 10 of the 16 OP pesticides and one or more of the six NPx outcomes. Most notably, abnormal toe proprioception was significantly associated with ever-use of six OP pesticides with odds ratios ranging from 2.03 to 3.06; monotonic increases in strength of association with increasing use was observed for three of the six pesticides. Mostly null associations were observed between OP pesticide use and electrophysiological tests, hand strength, sway speed, and vibrotactile threshold. Conclusions: This study provides some evidence that long-term exposure to OP pesticides is associated with signs of impaired PNS function among pesticide applicators.

Source : Starks SE, Hoppin JA, Kamel F, Lynch CF, Jones MP, Alavanja MC, Sandler DP, Gerr F. Environ. Health Perspect. 2012.;jsessionid=6A479E059F697EC66F0D01EDCD30B67A?uri=info%3Adoi%2F10.1289%2Fehp.1103944&representation=PDF

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