Acetylcholinesterase activity and time after a peak pesticide-use period among Ecuadorian children

Jose Ricardo Suarez-Lopez, Cheyenne R. Butcher, Sheila Gahagan, Harvey Checkoway, Bruce H. Alexander, Wael K. Al-Delaimy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Purpose: Mother’s Day (May) is a holiday with substantial demand for flowers, associated with heightened flower production and escalated pesticide use. The effect of spray seasons on pesticide exposures of children living in agricultural communities but who do not work in agriculture is poorly understood. In this study, we estimated the association of time after Mother’s Day harvest with children’s acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity. AChE is a physiological marker of organophosphate/carbamate pesticide exposures that may take up to 3 months to normalize after its inhibition. Methods: We examined 308 children, aged 4–9 years, in Ecuadorian agricultural communities during a low flower-production season but within 63–100 days (mean: 81.5 days, SD: 10.9) after Mother’s Day harvest. We quantified AChE activity (mean: 3.14 U/mL, SD: 0.49) from a single finger-stick sample. Results: We observed positive linear associations between time after the harvest and AChE among participants living near plantations. The associations were strongest among participants living within 233 m [(0.15 U/mL (95% CI 0.02, 0.28)], slightly weaker among participants living within 234–532 m [0.11 U/mL (0.00, 0.23)], and not associated among participants at greater distances. Similar findings were observed across categories of areas of flower plantations within 500 m of homes. Conclusions: These cross-sectional findings suggest that a peak pesticide-use period can decrease AChE activity of children living near plantations. These seasonal pesticide exposures could induce short- and long-term developmental alterations in children. Studies assessing exposures at multiple times in relation to pesticide spray seasons among children who do not work in agriculture are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-184
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany.


  • Agriculture
  • Children
  • Cholinesterase
  • Mother’s Day
  • Organophosphate
  • Pesticides


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