Unacceptable "occupational" exposure to toxic agents among children in Ecuador

Am J Ind Med. 1997 Sep;32(3):185-9. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0274(199709)32:3<185::aid-ajim1>3.0.co;2-x.


To document the problem of child labor as a health issue, we report here three case-studies in Ecuador: exposure to mercury among gold washers, exposure to organophosphates and carbamates in the fruit-growing industry, and exposure to solvents among shoe cleaners. We measured the relevant biological indicators of exposure (mercury in urine, urinary levels of phenols, and acetylcholine esterase in erythrocytes) among selected samples of 10 children for each working place. In all the case studies, the values of the biological indicators showed elevated exposure to well-known toxicants, which are now rare in developed countries, even among adult workers. The findings meld with a previously reported case study of intoxication from inorganic lead among children employed in the manufacture of roof tiles in Ecuador. This study highlights the need to properly evaluate and control the potential health effects due to exposure to toxic substances among children employed in different occupations in several parts of the world.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase / blood*
  • Adolescent
  • Agriculture
  • Child
  • Child Welfare*
  • Ecuador
  • Employment*
  • Erythrocytes / enzymology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lead / blood
  • Male
  • Mercury / adverse effects
  • Mercury / urine*
  • Mining
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Pesticides / adverse effects
  • Pesticides / blood
  • Shoes
  • Solvents / adverse effects
  • Solvents / analysis*


  • Pesticides
  • Solvents
  • Lead
  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Mercury