Organophosphate exposure and short-term neurobehavioral changes in children

Photo credit: Calvin Hodgson

Although there is a large body of literature documenting the effects of exposure to organophosphates (OP) in children including decreased attention span, hyperactivity, and decreases in IQ, the majority investigate how prenatal or early childhood exposure affect children years later. Fewer studies have examined the short-term effects of OP exposures in children.  A new study published in the journal Neurobiology examined the short-term neurobehavioral effects of OP exposure in children. Researchers assessed the neurobehavioral performance of children ages 4 -9 in flower-growing agricultural communities in Ecuador 63 and 100 days after the Mother’s Day flower harvest, a period of high OP pesticide use. These children were not from farm families but lived in communities near farming activity. Researchers found that the children examined exhibited lower attention control, reduced visuospatial processing and reduced sensorimotor skills than children examined later. This study is one of the first to suggest that periods of high pesticide use may have short-term neurobehavioral effects on children whose parents don’t work directly in agriculture.