Neurobehavioral Assessment of Pesticide Exposure in Children

Principal Investigator: Diane Rohlman, PhD
Associate Professor, Environmental and Occupational Health
University of Iowa

NIOSH 2006-2011

The objective of this project, based at Oregon Health Sciences University, was to identify and characterize the exposure to organophosphate pesticide in the homes of pesticide mixer-loader applicators and to relate those exposures to neurobehavioral performance of children of pesticide applicators over two years in a longitudinal study that examine neurodevelopmental changes.

There is increasing concern that the widespread use of pesticides in agriculture may be affecting farmworker communities, thus a potential public health problem. Agricultural workers are at risk of pesticide exposure from occupational exposures and they and their family are at risk of exposures in the home. Detectable levels of pesticides have been reported in home dust, primarily in families residing in agricultural areas. Studies have also documented the presence of biological markers of pesticide exposure in adults and children and there are higher levels of exposure in residents of agricultural communities when compared to non-agricultural communities. Neurobehavioral tests have identified deficits in adult populations exposed to and poisoned by OP pesticides. However, little research has examined the impact on children.

Our previous work provides preliminary evidence of health effects associated with chronic exposure to pesticides in adult farmworkers. However, the absence of exposure and biological data from the non-agricultural group limit the conclusions. These results need to be replicated and extended to children who are a more vulnerable population.

Specific Aims

Aim 1. Establish a sampling protocol to characterize Organophosphate (OP) exposures in urine metabolites in children over a spraying season.

Aim 2. Recruit a cohort of 150 school-age children, whose parents are active OP pesticide mixer-loader applicators, and an age- and gender-matched control group (N=150); and implement procedures for maintaining contact with the sample over two application seasons.

Aim 3. Conduct a cross-sectional study of neurobehavioral performance in children (age 5-12) of pesticide mixer-loader-applicators, compared to same-age control children, and relate performance of all children to home dust exposures.

Aim 4. Examine neurobehavioral performance of the same 300 children in the following (second) year to determine if home pesticide exposures affect neurodevelopment.

Aim 5. Develop a series of communications to the orchard worker, orchard owner, school and medical communities in Hood River that describe the research outcomes and targeted implications.

Partners and Advisories
Oregon State University, Agriculture Extension 

Butler-Dawson J., Galvin K., Thorne P. S., Rohlman D. S. Organophosphorus pesticide exposure and neurobehavioral performance in Latino children living in an orchard community. Neurotoxicology. 2016 Mar;53:165-72.DOI: 10.1016/j.neuro.2016.01.009. Epub 2016 Jan 25. PubMed PMID: 26820522; PMCID: PMC5223784.  

Rohlman D. S., Lucchini R., Anger W. K., Bellinger D. C., van Thriel C. Neurobehavioral testing in human risk assessment. Neurotoxicology. 2008 May;29(3):556-67.DOI: 10.1016/j.neuro.2015.02.003. Epub 2015 Feb 24. PubMed PMID: 25721160; PMCID: PMC4442703. 

Rohlman DS, Bodner T, Arcury TA, Quandt SA, McCauley L. Developing methods for assessing neurotoxic effects in Hispanic non-English speaking children. Neurotoxicology. 2007 Mar;28(2):240-4. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuro.2006.03.021. Epub 2006 April 25. PubMed PMID: 16759705. 

Rothlein J., Rohlman D. S., Lasarev M., Phillips J., Muniz J., McCauley L. Organophosphate pesticide exposure and neurobehavioral performance in agricultural and non-agricultural Hispanic workers. Environ Health Perspect. 2006 May;114(5):691-6. Epub 2006 Jan 23. PubMed PMID: 16675422; PMCID: PMC1459921. 

Rohlman D. S., Arcury T. A., Quandt S. A., Lasarev M., Rothlein J., Travers R., Tamulinas A., Scherer J., Early J., Marín A., Phillips J., McCauley L. Neurobehavioral performance in preschool children from agricultural and non-agricultural communities in Oregon and North Carolina. Neurotoxicology. 2005 Aug;26(4):589-98. Epub 2005 Jan 12. PubMed PMID: 16112324.  

Rohlman, D. Neurobehavioral Effects of Pesticide Exposure in Children | MNC Streamline 2010: pg. 3

Impact of Workplace Stress on Health in Farmworker Families

Developing a Work Stress Survey for Farmworkers