Neuropsychologic effects of long-term exposure to pesticides: results from the French Phytoner study

Environ Health Perspect. 2001 Aug;109(8):839-44. doi: 10.1289/ehp.01109839.


The Phytoner study investigated a possible association between neuropsychologic performances and long-term exposure to pesticides in Bordeaux vineyard workers, most of whom use fungicides. Among the 917 subjects interviewed from February 1997 to August 1998, 528 were directly exposed to pesticides through mixing and/or spraying (mean exposure duration: 22 years), 173 were indirectly exposed through contact with treated plants, and 216 were never exposed. All subjects performed neuropsychologic tests administered at home by trained psychologists. The risk of scoring a low performance on the tests was constantly higher in exposed subjects. When taking into account educational level, age, sex, alcohol consumption, smoking, environmental exposures, and depressive symptoms and when restricting analysis to subgroups, results remained significant for most tests, with odds ratios (OR) exceeding 2. These results point to long-term cognitive effects of low-level exposure to pesticides in occupational conditions. Given the frequency of pesticide use and the potential disabilities resulting from cognitive impairments, further toxicologic and epidemiologic research is needed to confirm these results and assess the impact on public health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • France / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Pesticides / adverse effects*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Time


  • Pesticides