Hypertension found in children exposed to pesticides

Higher blood pressure in children is associated with pesticide exposure during a heightened pesticide spraying period , according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Research.

This study involved boys and girls living near flower crops in Ecuador. Mother's Day is celebrated in May in most of the world and is a holiday with one of the highest sales of flowers. Ecuador is among the largest commercial flower growers in the world, with significant rose exports to North America, Europe, and Asia. Commercial rose production relies on the use of insecticides, fungicides, and other pest controls, but little is known about their human health effects.

Researchers assessed 313 boys and girls, ages 4 to 9 years old, residing in floricultural communities in Ecuador. The children were examined up to 100 days after the Mother's Day harvest. The analyses are part of a long-term study of environmental pollutants and child development in Ecuador.

In a previous study, the research team reported that children examined sooner after the harvest displayed lower performances in tasks of attention, self-control, visuospatial processing, and sensorimotor than children examined later, according to the study abstract.

Children examined sooner after the Mother's Day harvest had higher pesticide exposures and higher systolic and diastolic blood pressures compared to children examined later. In addition, children who were examined within 81 days after the harvest were three times more likely to have hypertension than children examined between 91 and 100 days, said according to first author Jose Suarez, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.  

Research regarding the effects of pesticides on the cardiovascular system is limited, but researchers said there is some evidence that insecticides, such as organophosphates, can increase blood pressure. Organophosphates and several other classes of insecticides and fungicides are commonly used to treat flowers for pests before export.

"These new findings build upon a growing number of studies describing that pesticide spray seasons may be affecting the development of children living near agricultural spray sites," said Suarez. "They highlight the importance of reducing the exposures to pesticides of children and families living near agriculture."