Chronic Pesticide Exposure Tied to Cognitive Decline

May even increase risk of evolution toward Alzheimer's disease, other dementia

THURSDAY, Dec. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Chronic pesticide exposure appears to be associated with an increased risk of long-term cognitive decline and possibly evolution toward dementia, according to a study published online Nov. 22 in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Isabelle Baldi, M.D., of the Université Victor Segalen in Bordeaux, France, and colleagues enrolled 929 vineyard workers affiliated with the health insurance system for farmers in the Bordeaux area of southwestern France between 1997 and 1998. Participants were followed-up during 2001 to 2003.

In the 614 participants available for investigation at follow-up, the researchers found the risk of obtaining a low performance on neurobehavioral tests to be higher in participants who had been exposed to pesticides than in those who had not (odds ratio, 1.35 to 5.60). The data also revealed that exposed participants had the worst declines in performance over the follow-up period. In exposed participants, the risk of having a two-point lower score on the Mini-Mental State Examination was 2.15. The results suggest a possible evolution toward Alzheimer's disease or other dementias in subjects with chronic pesticide exposure.

"It remains questionable whether indirectly exposed subjects in contact with treated plants really experienced lower cumulative levels than those directly exposed through treatment tasks, as re-entry tasks in vineyards are carried out on more days per year than treatment tasks, especially since the impact on cognitive effects did not differ much between these two categories of subjects," the authors write.

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