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

19 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

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements We thank Dr. Jose Suarez Torres, Dolores Lopez Paredes and Fundación Cimas del Ecuador for providing the infrastructure, logistical support, access to the Local and Community Information System and their long history of collaboration with Pedro Moncayo County communities; all of which were key to the success of this study. We also thank the Tabacundo Health Center of the Ministry of Public Health of Ecuador, for their assistance, and especially the people of Pedro Moncayo County and their local governments for their collaboration and support of this project.

Funding Information:
Funding sources Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (1R36OH009402-01), and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (Grants R01ES025792-01, R21ES026084-01). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

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


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


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