Neurotoxicity of pesticides

J Agromedicine. 2007;12(1):17-25. doi: 10.1300/J096v12n01_03.


Several pesticides such as organophosphates, carbamates and the organochlorine pesticides directly target nervous tissue as their mechanism of toxicity. In several others, such as the fumigants, the nervous system is affected by toxicological mechanisms that diffusely affect most or all tissues in the body. Both the central and peripheral nervous system are involved in the acute toxidromes of many pesticides resulting in acute short-term effects. There is strong human epidemiological evidence for persistent nervous system damage following acute intoxication with several important pesticide groups such as organophosphates and certain fumigants. However, whether persistent nervous system damage follows chronic low-level exposure to pesticides in adults (particularly organophosphpates), and whether in utero and/or early childhood exposure leads to persistent nervous system damage, is a subject of study at present. Parkinson's Disease, one of the most common chronic central nervous system diseases, has been linked to pesticide exposure in some studies, but other studies have failed to find an association. Several new pesticidal chemicals such as the neo-nicotinoids and fipronil have central nervous system effects, but only case reports are available to date on acute human intoxications with several of these. Little data are yet available on whether long-term effects result from these chemicals. Several ongoing or recently completed studies should add valuable insight into the effects of pesticides on the human nervous system particularly the effect of low-dose, chronic exposure both in adults and children.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Exposure
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Pesticides / toxicity*


  • Pesticides