Agriculture in the United States employs youth ages ten and older in work environments with high pesticide levels. Younger children in rural areas may also be affected by indirect pesticide exposures. The long-term effects of pesticides on health and development are difficult to assess and poorly understood. Yet, epidemiologic studies suggest associations with cancer as well as cognitive deficits. We report a practical and cost-effective approach to assess environmental pesticide exposures and their biological consequences in children. Our approach combines silicone wristband personal samplers and DNA damage quantification from hair follicles, and was tested as part of a community-based participatory research (CBPR) project involving ten Latino children from farmworker households in North Carolina. Our study documents high acceptance among Latino children and their caregivers of these noninvasive sampling methods. The personal samplers detected organophosphates, organochlorines, and pyrethroids in the majority of the participants (70%, 90%, 80%, respectively). Pesticides were detected in all participant samplers, with an average of 6.2±2.4 detections/participant sampler. DNA damage in epithelial cells from the sheath and bulb of plucked hairs follicles was quantified by immunostaining 53BP1-labled DNA repair foci. This method is sensitive, as shown by dose response analyses to γ radiations where the lowest dose tested (0.1Gy) led to significant increased 53BP1 foci density. Immunolabeling of DNA repair foci has significant advantages over the comet assay in that specific regions of the follicles can be analyzed. In this cohort of child participants, significant association was found between the number of pesticide detections and DNA damage in the papilla region of the hairs. We anticipate that this monitoring approach of bioavailable pesticides and genotoxicity will enhance our knowledge of the biological effects of pesticides to guide education programs and safety policies.
Keywords: Children and adolescents; Environmental justice; Genotoxicity; Health outcomes predictions; Pesticides; Silicone wristbands.
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