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Handal, A.J., B. Lozoff, J. Breilh, and Sioban D. Harlow. 2007. "Neurobehavioral development in children with potential exposure to pesticides." Epidemiology, 18:312-320.
Background: Children may be at higher risk than adults from pesticide exposure, due to their rapidly developing physiology, unique behavioral patterns, and interactions with the physical environment. This preliminary study conducted in Ecuador examines the association between household and environmental risk factors for pesticide exposure and neurobehavioral development. Methods: We collected data over 6 months in the rural highland region of Cayambe, Ecuador (2003-2004). Children age 24-61 months residing in 3 communities were assessed with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire and the Visual Motor Integration Test. We gathered information on maternal health and work characteristics, the home and community environment, and child characteristics. Growth measurements and a hemoglobin finger-prick blood test were obtained. Multiple linear regression analyses were conducted. Results: Current maternal employment in the flower industry was associated with better developmental scores. Longer hours playing outdoors were associated with lower gross and fine motor and problem solving skills. Children who played with irrigation water scored lower on fine motor skills (8% decrease; 95% confidence interval = -9.31 to -0.53), problem-solving skills (7% decrease; -8.40 to -0.39), and Visual Motor Integration test scores (3% decrease; -12.00 to 1.08). Conclusions: These results suggest that certain environmental risk factors for exposure to pesticides may affect child development, with contact with irrigation water of particular concern. However, the relationships between these risk factors and social characteristics are complex, as corporate agriculture may increase risk through pesticide exposure and environmental contamination, while indirectly promoting healthy development by providing health care, relatively higher salaries, and daycare options.