Aims: To identify neurobehavioural deficits among workers exposed to organophosphorous (OP) pesticides in their occupation.
Methods: This study was conducted during the period when pesticides were applied to cotton crops in the fields in Menoufiya Governorate, Egypt. Fifty two occupationally exposed male workers were compared to 50 unexposed male controls who were similar in age, socioeconomic class, and years of education (⩾12 years). All participants completed a questionnaire (assessing personal, occupational, and medical histories), general and neurological clinical examination, neurobehavioural test battery (including tests for verbal abstraction, problem solving, attention, memory, and visuomotor speed), personality assessment, and serological analysis for serum acetylcholinesterase.
Results: After correcting for confounders of age and education, the exposed participants exhibited significantly lower performance than controls on six neurobehavioural tests (Similarities, Digit Symbol, Trailmaking part A and B, Letter Cancellation, Digit Span, and Benton Visual Retention). A longer duration of work with pesticides was associated with lower performance on most neurobehavioural tests after adjusting for multiple comparisons. Although serum acetylcholinesterase was significantly lower in the exposed than the control participants, it was not significantly correlated with either neurobehavioural performance or neurological abnormalities.
Conclusions: Occupational exposure to OP pesticides was associated with deficits in a wider array of neurobehavioural functions than previously reported, perhaps because of higher exposure in this population. Moderate chronic OP exposure may not only affect visuomotor speed as reported previously, but also verbal abstraction, attention, and memory.
- neurobehavioural deficit
- AchE, acetylcholinesterase
- BMI, body mass index
- OP, organophosphorous
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