Cognitive impairment in agricultural workers and nearby residents exposed to pesticides in the Coquimbo Region of Chile


Chronic exposure to organophosphate pesticides is a worldwide public health concern associated with several psychiatric disorders and dementia. Most existing studies on the effects of pesticides only evaluate agricultural workers. Therefore, this study sought to establish if individuals indirectly exposed to pesticides, such as residents in agricultural areas, also suffer cognitive impairments. Neuropsychological evaluations were carried out on three groups (n = 102): agricultural workers directly exposed to pesticides (n = 32), individuals living in agricultural areas indirectly (i.e. environmentally) exposed to pesticides (n = 32), and an unexposed control group (n = 38). The assessed cognitive processes included memory, executive functions, attention, language praxis, and visuoconstruction. The direct exposure group performed significantly lower in executive function, verbal fluency, and visual and auditory memory tests than the indirect exposure group, which, in turn, performed worse than the unexposed group. Even after adjusting for age, gender, and educational level, both exposure groups showed higher rates of cognitive deficit than control individuals. In conclusion, both direct and indirect chronic exposure to pesticides affects cognitive functioning in adults and, consequently, actions should be taken to protect the health of not only agricultural workers, but also of residents in agricultural areas.

Corral SA, de Angel V, Salas N, Zúñiga-Venegas L, Gaspar PA, Pancetti F

Neurotoxicology And Teratology

julio 01, 2017

DOI: 10.1016/

Investigador BNI: Pablo Gaspar