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Neurobehavioral effects of long-term exposure to pesticides: results from the 4-year follow-up of the PHYTONER Study
  1. Isabelle Baldi1,2,
  2. Anne Gruber1,
  3. Virginie Rondeau2,
  4. Pierre Lebailly3,
  5. Patrick Brochard1,
  6. Colette Fabrigoule4
  1. 1Laboratoire Santé Travail Environnement, EA 3672, Institut de Santé Publique d'Epidémiologie et de Développement, IFR 99, Université Victor Segalen Bordeaux 2, Bordeaux, France
  2. 2Centre INSERM U897, Université Victor Segalen Bordeaux 2, Bordeaux, France
  3. 3Groupe Régional d'Etudes sur le Cancer, EA 1772, Centre François Baclesse, Université de Caen, Caen, France
  4. 4CNRS, UMR 5231, Université Victor Segalen Bordeaux 2, Bordeaux, France
  1. Correspondence to Isabelle Baldi, Laboratoire Santé Travail Environnement, EA 3672, Institut de Santé Publique d'Epidémiologie et de Développement, 146 rue Léo Saignat, 33076 Bordeaux cedex, France; isabelle.baldi{at}


Objective The aim of the PHYTONER study is to investigate the role of pesticides on neurobehavioral performances in French vineyard workers.

Methods 929 workers affiliated to the health insurance system for farmers in the Bordeaux area of south-western France were enrolled in the study in 1997–1998. They were contacted for a first follow-up in 2001–2003. Participants completed a questionnaire and nine neurobehavioral tests. They were classified according to their life-long pesticide exposure, as directly exposed, indirectly exposed or non-exposed. Educational level, age, sex, alcohol consumption, smoking, psychotropic drug use and depressive symptoms were taken into account in the analysis.

Results 614 subjects were available for investigation at follow-up. Follow-up analysis confirmed that the risk of obtaining a low performance on the tests was higher in exposed subjects, with ORs ranging from 1.35 to 5.60. Evolution of performances over the follow-up period demonstrated that exposed subjects had the worst decreases in performance. The risk of having a two-point lower score on the Mini-Mental State Examination was 2.15 (95% CI 1.18 to 3.94) in exposed subjects.

Conclusion These results suggest long-term cognitive effects of chronic exposure to pesticides and raise the issue of the risk of evolution towards dementia. The PHYTONER study is the first to provide prospective data on the natural history of neurological disorders associated with pesticide exposure.

  • Occupational exposure
  • pesticides
  • neurobehavioral manifestations
  • long-term effects
  • neurological effects
  • epidemiology
  • neurobehavioural effects
  • agriculture

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  • Funding This study was funded by the Ministère de l'Environnement (Programme Santé Environnement), Agence Nationale pour l'Amélioration des Conditions de Travail, Conseil Régional d'Aquitaine, and Association Recherche et Partage.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the ethics committee of Bordeaux Teaching Hospital.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.