Acetylcholinesterase activity, cohabitation with floricultural workers, and blood pressure in Ecuadorian children

Jose R. Suarez-Lopez, David R. Jacobs, John H. Himes, Bruce H. Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors are commonly used pesticides that can effect hemodynamic changes through increased cholinergic stimulation. Children of agricultural workers are likely to have paraoccupational exposures to pesticides, but the potential physiological impact of such exposures is unclear. Objectives: We investigated whether secondary pesticide exposures were associated with blood pressure and heart rate among children living in agricultural Ecuadorian communities. Methods: This cross-sectional study included 271 children 4-9 years of age [51% cohabited with one or more flower plantation workers (mean duration, 5.2 years)]. Erythrocyte AChE activity was measured using the EQM Test-mate system. Linear regression models were used to estimate associations of systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), and heart rate with AChE activity, living with flower workers, duration of cohabitation with a flower worker, number of flower workers in the child's home, and number of practices that might increase children's exposure to pesticides. Results: Mean (± SD) AChE activity was 3.14 ± 0.49 U/mL. A 1-U/mL decrease in AChE activity was associated with a 2.86-mmHg decrease in SBP (95% CI: -5.20, -0.53) and a 2.89-mmHg decrease in DBP (95% CI: -5.00, -0.78), after adjustment for potential confounders. Children living with flower workers had lower SBP (-1.72 mmHg; 95% CI: -3.53, 0.08) than other children, and practices that might increase exposure also were associated with lower SBP. No significant associations were found between exposures and heart rate. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that subclinical secondary exposures to pesticides may affect vascular reactivity in children. Additional research is needed to confirm these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)619-624
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013


  • AChE
  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Agricultural communities
  • Agriculture
  • Blood pressure
  • Children
  • Ecuador
  • Epidemiology
  • Pesticides
  • Secondary exposure


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