Lower acetylcholinesterase activity among children living with flower plantation workers

Jose R. Suarez-Lopez, David R. Jacobs, John H. Himes, Bruce H. Alexander, De Ann Lazovich, Megan Gunnar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background: Children of workers exposed to pesticides are at risk of secondary pesticide exposure. We evaluated the potential for lower acetylcholinesterase activity in children cohabiting with fresh-cut flower plantation workers, which would be expected from organophosphate and carbamate insecticide exposure. Parental home surveys were performed and acetylcholinesterase activity was measured in 277 children aged 4-9 years in the Secondary Exposure to Pesticides among Infants, Children and Adolescents (ESPINA) study. Participants lived in a rural county in Ecuador with substantial flower plantation activity. RESULTS: Mean acetylcholinesterase activity was 3.14. U/ml, standard deviation (SD) of 0.49. It was lower by 0.09. U/ml (95% confidence interval (CI) -0.19, -0.001) in children of flower workers (57% of participants) than non-flower workers' children, after adjustment for gender, age, height-for-age, hemoglobin concentration, income, pesticide use within household lot, pesticide use by contiguous neighbors, examination date and residence distance to nearest flower plantation. Using a 4 level polychotomous acetylcholinesterase activity dependent variable, flower worker cohabitation (vs. not) had odds ratio 3.39 (95% CI 1.19, 9.64) for being <15th percentile compared to the highest tertile. Children cohabitating for ≥5 years (vs. never) had OR of 4.11 (95% CI: 1.17, 14.38) of AChE activity within <15th percentile compared to the highest tertile. Conclusions: Cohabitation with a flower worker was related to lower acetylcholinesterase activity in children. This supports the hypothesis that the amount of take-home pesticides from flower workers suffices to decrease acetylcholinesterase activity, with lower activity associated with longer exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-59
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - Apr 1 2012


  • AChE
  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Children
  • Organophosphate
  • Pesticide

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