Acute health effects of organophosphorus pesticides on Tanzanian small-scale coffee growers

J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 2001 Jul-Aug;11(4):335-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.jea.7500172.


Acute health effects of organophosphorus (OP) pesticides on coffee farmworkers in 1991-1992 in Tanzania are reported to provide a basis for concern over farmworkers being overexposed during application. Workers exposed to OP pesticides (N=133) were drawn from a population of about 240,000 coffee farmers. They were interviewed on symptoms and personal protection, and their erythrocyte acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity was determined during both spraying and nonspraying period. AChE activities during spraying and nonspraying period were comparable (mean 32.0, SD 7.8 vs. 33.0, SD 8.7 U/g HgB, P=0.26). The prevalence of cough, headache, abdominal pain, excessive sweating, nausea, excessive salivation, diarrhea, and vomiting did not differ significantly between spraying and nonspraying periods. There was no suggestion of decreased AChE in exposed subjects who complained of OP-related symptoms compared to symptomless exposed subjects. Use of gloves, long boots, head cover, face cover, and coverall was not significantly associated with AChE activity. No marked AChE depression was found during spraying season, which may explain the lack of association between symptoms and AChE. The fact that only moderately toxic OP pesticides were used may indicate that toxicity was not sufficiently high to cause depression. Experience, however, suggests that occupational poisoning remains a potential serious danger in coffee cultivation in Tanzania.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / etiology
  • Acetylcholinesterase / metabolism
  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Agriculture*
  • Coffee
  • Cough / etiology
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / etiology
  • Headache / etiology
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Organophosphorus Compounds*
  • Protective Clothing
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasons
  • Tanzania


  • Coffee
  • Insecticides
  • Organophosphorus Compounds
  • Acetylcholinesterase