Neuropsychological performance among agricultural pesticide applicators

Environ Res. 1992 Oct;59(1):217-28. doi: 10.1016/s0013-9351(05)80241-5.


To assess the potential effects on neuropsychiatric performance of chronic occupational exposure to organophosphate insecticides, we performed a prospective longitudinal study of a cohort of apple orchard pesticide applicators and a comparison cohort of beef slaughter-house workers. The study group consisted of 49 applicators and 40 comparison subjects who completed both an initial evaluation (preseason) prior to the onset of the approximately 6-month pesticide spraying season and a follow-up evaluation (postseason) about 1 month following the end of spraying season. The applicator cohort had a greater number (n = 22, 45%) of individuals who identified primary preference for Spanish-language testing than did the comparison cohort (n = 5, 13%). Stratification by language preference revealed no significant differences in background characteristics between the two cohorts, except for fewer years of education in the Spanish-language preference applicators versus control subgroups (5.0 +/- 3.1 vs 7.8 +/- 3.7 years, respectively). After controlling for language preference, there were no statistically significant differences between the applicators and control cohorts on neuropsychological subtests of the computerized test battery. Preseason baseline performance on individual tests was a significant predictor of postseason test performance. After controlling for baseline performance, the only statistically significant exposure related across-season changes in neuropsychological performance was for one subtest (Symbol Digit Substitution) and was confined to the Spanish language preference subgroups, with worse adjusted postseason performance among applicators versus controls (P = 0.001). This study found no clear evidence of clinically significant decrements in neuropsychological performance following one 6-month season of pesticide exposure in a cohort of applicators who were felt to have generally low, intermittent, and well-controlled organophosphate exposures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / chemically induced
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / epidemiology
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / psychology*
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / adverse effects
  • Pesticides / adverse effects*


  • Organophosphorus Compounds
  • Pesticides